Jun 26, 2012

⎨S h o o t i n g⎬

--1724
Mamiya M645 // Ilford HP5+

After months of being fairly happy with individual photos I was taking, but not with my overall so called 'work', it hit me recently that I was shooting what I thought I was supposed to be shooting (e.g. everyday scenes, plants etc). I was shooting things that moved me in person, but that didn’t translate into moving me when I was behind the lens, or when I looked at them later. I thought I should be shooting things I was seeing everyday, because I was someone who was often moved by the beauty surrounding me.

If I was at a park, I had to shoot flowers. If I had baked something, I had to photograph it.If I was at the market, I had to photograph the vegetables. I had to show something for my time spent somewhere, and I had to show what I'd found pretty. In my mind, a photographer was someone who shot what they saw. 

Around me, everyone was taking photos of their daily life and that was what had drawn me to photography in the first place, so I had to keep doing it. That was expected of me and I was expecting it of myself. But doing so rarely felt right. Sometimes, I liked those photos, but more often than not, I didn’t. They were less than stellar. The viewers probably could feel that I didn’t feel as moved by them as I should, or as other people would. I’d started shooting those for fun and because I didn’t have anything else available around me, so I thought those were my kind of shots.
 
Not shooting those scenes made me feel like I wasn’t much of a photographer, but if I did, I felt inadequate when people asked me what I photographed and I gave them that answer: just what’s around me, everyday objects and scenes. I also always stated it that way, with the ‘just’ added to highlight that it wasn’t good or important (it wasn't), or worse, that I didn’t know what I was doing. I had technical knowledge, but no real way to express it. I knew what I was doing, more so than the average person because I thought about technical matters and composition before shooting, but I still wasn’t shooting what really mattered to me.
 
Sometimes people exclaimed, this is so pretty or unusual, you should take a picture! Sometimes, to convince me to go somewhere, my friends would say, you can take photos there. I was surprised that people didn’t seem to know what my photography was about or where my interests lied. I didn't take photos of just anything, and I wasn't desperate. I would feel offended because I wasn’t a snapshot type of person. My photos were more than that, I wasn’t the person wielding an iPhone or a made-for-hipsters camera to take ‘snaps’. Except that in a way, I was. It wasn’t clear in my head what I was doing, or what I wanted or liked to shoot. So if I didn’t know it and didn’t tell people, how could they know what kind of photographer I was? 
 
All that time, I wanted to shoot portraits and I wanted to show people making things, and doing things. I wanted to make portraits of people working on art, or people posing, but not in a high fashion way. I figured out that I loved portraits more than anything, whether moving or still during a concert at which I shot black and white film. For the first time, I thought, this is what I want to be doing, this is what I’m meant to be doing. I had never felt happier with a camera in my hand.

Don't get me wrong, I do like taking snapshots of my daily life once in while, and always enjoy taking or seeing photos of food and drinks. One of my favorite photos is one of a glass of vodka on a bar table. It’s black and white, and it looks isolated from the hustle and bustle of the bar. I like adding a human element when possible, but those types of photos are enjoyable. I would also love to take more interior shots, especially if they were part of a series about a person’s space. But I don't want to be shooting only those. I want those to be the rare exception rather than the norm. They're just not what I'm inspired by anymore. And now, I'm making portraits and photographing artists, and a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders, that I'd put there myself. 

13 comments:

  1. I can't agree with you more. I going through same dilemma right now. I want to record things around me but the results are not inspiring myself to go do more. I am trying to find a voice but have yet to find one. Great you have found portraits to be one of your voice. Good luck with your endeavor!

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    1. Thank you so much, Howie! I hope you find yours soon. It's a long process and it happens when you least expect it, I think. My darkroom instructor told me to make lists of things I'm interested in and then to narrow it down to objects of types of shots, and I think that's good advice. Maybe you should try that. Sit down with a piece of paper for a few minutes and you may come up with something that will help you know what you want and should be shooting to be happy with your work and voice. Good luck!

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  2. Anne, first of all, let me say that I've always loved your photography from the first time I saw it (which I honestly have no clue when or how I found it, besides probably on Flickr!).

    I have SO been enjoying your recent reflections on photography and watching you grow inside, which is the only way we can better our work on the outside once we master the technical aspects. And oh how I can relate to this post... I remember going through old blog posts a few months ago and deleting the ones that were crap. Surprise, surprise! The majority of the ones I felt like were crap were a year+ old and had photos that, in retrospect, I only took because I thought I "should." Pictures of pretty Victorian-era knick knacks in a thrift store or cool looking rocks at a museum and things like that. That's not me... I like cats and cuss words and pictures of dead things. So that's what I'm gonna shoot.

    I think the internet is the biggest double edged sword of all, because it allows us a space to express ourselves however we like, but the pressure to please our audience before we please ourselves is overwhelming.

    And I'm so with you on portraits. No matter what 'phase' I've gone through with photography, portraits have always been at the top of my list. <3

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    1. I've already sort of replied to you directly, but I still want to thank you for your encouragement. We should talk about this more over coffee at Crema.

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  3. Wow, there is a lot in this article I'm also feeling.
    I've started photography as a snapshot kind of people and I'm now moving to a more personnal way of taking pictures. But I still feel that I haven't found my way yet.
    I'm glad you did and as I strolled through your blog, I loved your pictures.
    Thank you for sharing

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  4. when you know what you want to do, then you have the most difficult part done.
    i think you are good in portrait, i think you are in the good direction.

    hugs.
    antolin

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    1. Your wise words are always appreciated, my friend.

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  5. This is such an amazing photo! I'm still at a stage where I enjoy taking photos of time spent, & snapshots... chronicling life in general. Maybe it will take a little bit of time for me to find my niche, photographically.
    I'm so glad that you seem to be finding yours. I always go by the 'do what you love' mantra. I liked your photos before & I love them now too. :)

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    1. Maybe it will, yes. But it's okay because you're still young. Virginia Woolf believed that young people should experiment with different styles and have fun with that, but not publish those experiments until they were sure of their style.
      I still take shots like those once in a while, but they're not what I want to spend my time (and money and knowledge) on. I like to spend some time on each image. I like to measure the light, and compose in the waist level finder long before I press the shutter.
      And thank you. I'm happy that I've found that and proud of my results so far. In a couple of months, I will probably hate them, but that's just a natural progression. If you still love what you did a few months later then you haven't learned and grown, and that's cause for concern.

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  6. i love epiphanies like this! but it takes shooting a lot of things that don't really interest us to come to realize them, sometimes. i'm glad you've discovered what beats your heart. :) keep the portraits coming!

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    1. Thank you, Sarah! It only took four years to figure it out...

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  7. I followed you here from Mortal Muses, because I was intrigued by the woman who carried around two big film cameras. This post resonates with me so much. I feel like I could have written it, at least the self-critique part. I feel so much like that myself these days. I had a very small show (just in a coffee-shop), and trying to pick out photos that worked together was so difficult for me. I am still working out what it I really want to do though. I have a few ideas, but all I really know for sure is that I want to be more focused.

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    1. Thanks for following the link! If you see this, I'd love to see your blog or Flickr because I couldn't click through to your work and we can continue this conversation.
      You should try all of your ideas and maybe you'll figure it out that way.

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