Thursday, April 30, 2009

Being challenged

It's a long time since I've done one of these blog things, let see if I remember how.

I participate in a group called "London Calling Photographers" or LCP for short. Nice group of people but there was much about it that was beginning to grate.

A long time ago, Jean Loup Sieff, one of the great photographers, expressed his disdain for camera club people as, and I'm paraphrasing somewhat, people in tweed jackets with patches on their elbows comparing the sizes of their dicks. I might have misremembered the dick part. The rush to acquire the new shiny in the form of the Canon 5D MkII was beginning to affirm his view of these kinds of groups to me.

More irritation came in the format of the "critique" portion of the evening where amateur photographs were ripped to shreds by people who may or may not have been able to do better in the same circumstance. Reportage and street photos suffered this the most to my mind where very often that moment is the only moment with no chance for re-exposure or re-composition. OK, there's a skill to getting that one shot good, but hell, that's why we take pictures.

Anyhow, last night was going to be my last night attending except I got a major kick up the arse.

Eamon, aka spiduko instead of shredding some poor sap's efforts challenged us. Oh, Eamon is a "fillum" (he's Irish you know) freak which usually also rubs me up the wrong way.

Firstly, he showed us some apparent snaps in lovely saturated film colour. They were moments in time with little thought to the composition. However, they were both part of a journey by the respective photographers and in context become part of a body of art.

So we were challenged. Were our efforts consistent with creating a corpus of work we would like to leave as a legacy or are we just snappers? Was our work authentic? Or were we just taking pictures we like?

This was a timely challenge for me. I'd recently come to the conclusion I could tear up (ok, erase) all but maybe 5 pieces I've ever taken, travel and friend shots notwithstanding. That would be about 30,000 pictures gone with few tears. I never go back to these images anyhow. What they are however, is part of my journey. All those pub portraits, landscapes and music pictures are part of learning the craft, the settings, embedding them in my psyche so that when it comes to composing some art, they are second nature. I'm happy at least that they've been stopoffs on the road.

Whilst I'm not a total comment whore on flickr, I do appreciate positive and constructive feedback and now I'm actually teaching photography to people who have made a conscious decision to try to take better pictures, I appreciate the nature of the journey these folks are taking.

So, if you class yourself as a photographer, are you creating something that's unique and part of you? Or are you just taking a bunch of snaps?