Why Photography?

You may have read my photographer’s profile but if you are a little more interested in what shapes my photographic world, please read on. It’s another dreary damp day outside today and whenever it’s like this I have a good excuse to philosophise, in particular about photography, its artistic attributes and art in general.

Taking Stock
I don’t think it hurts to take stock sometimes, to look at where you are, dwell a little on what has shaped your visual appreciations to date and then of course look into the abyss of where you might be going in the future. There are no guarantees as to where we may get to as photographers, artists or any of the many other practitioners of the visual arts. In this age of ‘the celebrity’ it is not uncommon for a famous person to recite that the road to their success actually transposed into a much different route than their original life plan. So what does this have to do with my photography and why on this wet and wonderful day am I pondering such thoughts?

Posturing Passion
You often hear outdoor photographers generalise their experiences and ambitions, posturing many a tale about their passion and desire for photography, to make the world a better place, to be eco friendly and protect the natural world. It normally sits in the profile of a website, maybe the forward of a book or indeed a magazine article showcasing a few of their images. This, I am sure, is a bonafide attribute for many - although in truth, when I read such pronouncements, I do have this opposing vision of the bluebell woods (I frequent them in the late spring) completely trampled down by hoards of previous tripod-wielding toggers in their size nines and wonder whether their true passion and desire may be more akin to getting their trophy image! Sadly, the ‘must have’ mentality is true in many wildlife and outdoor pursuits.

So what about my motivations as an outdoor photographer? It may surprise you to know I have never had a natural inbuilt desire or passion for the great outdoors – not as the majority of landscape or nature photographers would normally boast. Neither has the lure been to capture the rarest species or the most iconic viewpoint. Like many young males, my outdoor exploits and true passion in life was to while away hour upon hour kicking a football around.

As much as I love and appreciate the beauties of the outdoor world, my drive, or passion, as many like to call it (not me) for photography is based very much on aesthetics and experiences. That’s not to say I don’t love the outdoor world: in fact, I have nothing but awe and reverence for nature and its ability to uplift, nurture, reproduce and stubbornly resist the arrogance of human interference. Respect!

So what about aesthetics and experiences? Well, I love the making of a good image. I enjoy the process of creating and producing an image, whether by photographing it, drawing or even painting it. After many years of practising I seem to have managed to attain a decent enough level of ability with a camera to produce images I am happy with, and ultimately that is what matters to me. This is not yet true with the pencil or the paintbrush, where more practice is needed!

Part of the experience of creating an image obviously involves the need to visit a location. I am fortunate to live in Dorset, an area of outstanding beauty. The funny thing is, though, I am not that inspired by the iconic landscape locations like Corfe Castle, Durdle Door or Lulworth Cove. Beautiful and wonders of the natural world they are, but I am always more likely to be looking in a different direction for my images – and sometimes not at all.
However, I cut my teeth on these images and love introducing photographers to them for the first time.

The Camera Obscura
The camera is the next part of the experience. I do have an annoying character trait: I have to know how and why something works. I guess this comes from an early and fairly impoverished background. Good as they were, my parents had six mouths to feeds on a less than modest income. The bottom line was that we worked hard for what we got and this has always held me in good stead in my personal and professional life. The camera is a treasured and hard-earned piece of kit; it also provides me with an open door of opportunity to the promised land of creating! To do it justice, I needed to learn its character, find its strengths and limitations, but ultimately enjoy using it! I have to confess to cringing when I see photographers treating their expensive pieces of kit with little care or attention … the throwaway attitude doesn’t sit well with me.

The technical side of photography can be the most demanding – often photographers don’t get past the learning of the camera menus and other aspects like apertures, focal lengths and shutter speeds. Those that do can then get fixated on the camera gear. I can understand this, and for many it is enough to pursue the next lens, tripod or camera model. Social media and the Internet generally encourage the ‘must have’ attitude too … but the real winners are the manufacturers! To use the drawing analogy above, it’s no different from aspiring after a better pencil or piece of paper: they are just tools and all have limitations, but the limitation is in the mindset of the user. I agree we can’t be a photographer without the tools for the job, but owning the pencil doesn’t make us an artist.

The enjoyment of creating, though, doesn’t stop with the camera; it’s a fallacy to think otherwise. Ever since the dawn of photography there has always been a need to process an image post capture. Modern day digital methods are no different, especially so if using RAW settings on your camera. Although I am not a lover of endlessly sitting at my computer, I particularly enjoy the part of processing my images – looking at the final image I have enjoyed visualising, creating and then putting the finishing touches to in editing.

The next draw is the aesthetics, or in my mind, the art. With the choice medium being the camera, the art is in the photography.

The word aesthetics seems a little ambiguous. So what are aesthetics? I looked this up and the overwhelming translation is this: “aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of art, beauty, and taste, with the creation and appreciation of beauty.”

So there we have it: the parts of the artistic jigsaw are the camera, the experience and the aesthetics. What truly matters is the learning and acquiring of the skills and understanding of the medium (the camera), enjoying the ongoing creating of images (the experience) and aspiring to the continued appreciation and creation of something uplifting and beautiful (the aesthetics).