Man in the mirror
In the July 2017 issue of the exceptional Fujilove magazine (I'm a huge Fuji x-series fan), I came across an article written by photographer Olaf Sztaba. It was entitled 'Have you ever looked into your own visual mirror' and within it posed a number of questions that photographers should address, for in his words...
If you don’t look deep into YOU as a person and as a photographer, you may find yourself drifting in the ocean of dos and don’ts, Internet trends and “friends”.
Feeling inspired by the article I thought it would not only be an excellent first blog post but also allow me the time to work out why it makes me tick, so here goes with those questions.
Why are you interested in photography?
I first became interested, and I mean really interested in photography when I was at senior school. Photography was an option on the curriculum and studying it seemed a world away from any other subject. I’d go as far as to say it felt like an escape from school. My interest was born out of a sense of exploration and creativity. For the first time in my life I connected to and felt passionate about a subject.
After higher education training in the subject I gravitated slowly towards a career in Graphic Design. This started from a few projects that incorporated what we then called DTP (Desktop publishing) at college. It was my first experience with programmes like Photoshop and Quark Xpress and the relationships between imagery, layout and typography were fascinating. As my career moved in this direction, camera use subsided and these became wilderness years when it came to my photography. On occasions I would half heartedly promise myself that one day I would go back to it, but I’m not sure I ever truly believed it.
Fast forward a good few years, a wonderful wife and 2 children later. Why am I taking time out to answer the above question? Why the interest? In truth the reignited passion came down to one person and one camera brand.
I came across Kevin purely by chance having been encouraged to look at the Fuji X Series cameras by a colleague who was impressed by what he’d seen. Apart from choosing to study photography at school, finding Kevin’s f16.click site was the single most important moment of my photographic life. I’d go as far to say it was actually life changing.
These images were so powerful, so full of life and emotion. They conveyed everything that connects with me in imagery and each one was overwhelmingly compelling. It was my epiphany. Admittedly, I will probably never reach the levels of aesthetic beauty Kevin achieves but when photographing people now, I am totally compelled to shoot with what I believe is the same sensitivity for humanity he does so well.
From shooting with a camera to shooting what I feel was the biggest thing that suddenly clicked into place, and if I’m to photograph with my heart then my number one subjects should be my family, in particular my children. They change so much and so quickly that documenting their childhood has taken on great importance and they provide wonderful inspiration. The feeling I have for my images now are what’s most important to me over anything else. Does it stir something within me? do I connect with it emotionally? As nice as it is to get likes on instagram, primarily it has to give me that same emotional attachment as when I first viewed Kevin’s work.
I’ve also taken to street photography which I find fascinating and in turn this makes me look so much more at life and what's around me. Street shooting brings great enjoyment and humour, even without a camera to your eye you can spot little moments that would work as images.
Talking of cameras. The X-series cameras are just amazing. They have a soul of their own and I will write more comprehensively about them in another blog but it would be straying off-topic to go into too much detail here. Suffice to say that anyone that uses them will know exactly what I'm talking about.
Does that answer the question 'Why am I interested in photography'? Who knows! It's certainly a bit long winded, but never-the-less a good exercise for me to articulate a journey I’ve never put down in writing.
What are your strengths and weaknesses
I would hope my main strength is being able to take photographs that people can connect with emotionally. That can only come about if I have that connection myself. I could never show an image I didn’t totally believe in. Be it composition or capturing a moment – I have to have confidence in it’s sincerity.
In terms of weaknesses I still feel I need a good few hours behind my cameras in different situations for everything technology wise to feel second nature. Which lens, metering system, focussing technique is right for a particular situation can only come from experience. I’m working on that by setting myself some projects of varying styles and disciplines.
Talking to people
I’m relatively shy. It’s why I get some much pleasure from my photography as I don’t have to really say anything to express myself! The idea of arranging people (think the traditional wedding shoot), shouting over people or trying to organise/orchestrate where the best place would be to take a particular image isn’t a strong point of mine. I am much more comfortable taking candid shots, another reason why I felt such a strong attachment to Kevin Mullin’s work as it is observational and photo-journalistic as opposed to anything orchestrated.
What project would I develop my whole life to
Easy. Family. My children growing up, becoming adults and our life-story together.
That's all for now. If you've got this far, thanks for reading and let me know what you think.