What does it for you?


Graeme Harvey

There's been a bit of discussion on here about the joys and restrictions of film and digital photography.

As you all know, I'm more of a "snapper" than a true photographer, and while I really love looking at what other people can do, I've not really got the training, technique and equipment to pull off what a lot of you can.

However, I enjoy a lot of what I do with the limited equipment I've got, and on a good day with the wind (or sun!) in the right, I think I can get a creditable photo or two. I've always loved night scenes, and yet since I bought this camera way back in 2007, I haven't really gone out and tried to brush up my expertise in that area.

In terms of post-processing, digital photography has been a lot of fun for me. I love doing composite shots, and get a great deal of satisfaction from hand-stitching a panorama. It's not a process that I'd ever want to automate because I love the challenge of trying to get the thing to look seamless.

I marvel at the talent that I see from my friends on here and it does inspire me to try new things.

Anyway, over to you...
For me it's about trying to construct a story or an idea within the picture, most times this is a fail but sometimes I get it right (in my mind). I love pictures that tell a story like that aftermath( no bodies) of the charge of the Light Brigade photograph by Roger Fenton showing just the cannon balls or the WWii picture showing a B17 missing a port wing supposedly hit by a falling bomb from a bomber above. These pictures just make me tingle there's so much of a story in them. A friend of mine in the US has a picture taken by his uncle in WWii. He was a gunner onboard bombers in the PF, he took a picture of a Zero coming back round for a 2nd pass at them. It's grainy and poor quality but what a shot, so moving. I was talking to my daughter about my trip to Auschwitz and the shots I got from there the other day. It is projects like that that get me going. (you might be able to tell WWii is a passion of mine)

As for equipment. I don't really bother to much. I'll use primes instead of zooms, it's a pain in the arse at times swapping lenses over but I try to produce the best quality I can given I'm not a Canon or Nikon user. I like to challenge myself some times and just stick one lens on for the duration of the walk. I find it makes me work a little harder and think about composition more.

If I had the time, space and money (in the poor house at the moment) I would love to try film on a serious scale, but as it stands I have to use 1's and 0's for now. I do get tremendous enjoyment from turning a RAW file into what I saw or thought in my head at the time. Although I went through a phase of going a little over board I've grown out of that, as well as the B&W stage I feel is coming to an end. This maybe sue in part with my fascination with William Eggleston at the moment.

That's a great question to pose Graeme. After all these years I would have thought I'd know exactly why I enjoy photography so much, but the real reasons and how to express them are pretty damn tricky. And they change all the time!

OK, let's be honest here, sometimes it's the kit! I'm just as susceptible to a shiny new toy as the next person (or weird and wonderful old one come to that). A new lens (needed or not), some antiquated and complex bit of equipment or interesting bit of software can be a great joy - even if only for a short while. However, the pictures that tell a story or raise questions appeal always; although for me it's the ones that suggest of something but a something that's not quite clear that appeal the most (the work of Gregory Crewdson is an obvious example even though it can be a bit too deliberate). I like environmental portraits in which the subject(s) are looking at something beyond the camera, or out of the frame and I find myself looking for such opportunities. One of the most striking examples of this that I have ever seen, although not photographic, is a 'model' made by Ron Mueck of a nude figure (himself) sitting in a boat and looking around you. Even when you stood directly in front, the conviction that there was something going on behind you was utterly convincing. The questions it raised was what I like in certain images. What was going on out-of-frame? Who was the sitter looking at? What were they thinking?

I have a genuine fascination in decay in the built environment. This goes way back to when art was my primary interest and architecture and interior design was my intended career (how on earth DID I become a scientist?). The dark world of decay, the descriptions of the collapse of society depicted in the fiction of JG Ballard etc drew me in (and still do). I now live half of the time in Potsdam and love the decayed buildings and faded grandeur that still exist there after 40 odd years of the DDR. I have several projects that I have been nibbling away at over the last 10 years on recording this decay: doorways, architectural details, graffiti, empty spaces where once lived families, where events unknown took place. I have always enjoyed the 'drama' of theatrical lighting especially in films (think Carol Reed and movies like The Third Man) and intend to try to start a series of imagined scenes in this style (a possible pursuit up a flight of steps, a figure emerging from a door, a furtive rendezvous - my model and muse is certainly going to be busy, just as well she enjoys it as much as I do!). All of course in a decaying world.

But of course there are all of the other things that surround us that become themes: interesting electrical boxes, weird juxtapositions and wonderful light. Capturing these and transforming them into an aesthetic abstraction (like Vic's bins and railings), revealing what we saw in them when we squeezed the shutter also drives me to keep shooting.

So, other than that Graeme, I really have no idea! Ask me again tomorrow or after I have been out with a camera or working in a darkroom (or even in Lightroom) and I'm sure that some of my answers will be different. But the main themes are nearly always there somewhere, even if I didn't quite achieve what I wanted. Of course, there's always the next shot...
boy have I got a interesting photo of a electrical box for you then Pete. :)
I hope this doesn't sound too facile but for me it's the notion of capturing a moment in time that will never be repeated. Later, these captured moments allow you to travel back in time. This just fascinates me.

Also there is the appeal of the suspense as you wait for your image to be developed (I shoot mostly film), as well as the mystery of how it can be that what you see in your mind's eye--or even in your viewfinder--so seldom actually appears in your image like you thought you saw it. (I'm speaking about my own photography here; if I get one or two good images out of a roll of 24 or 36 I am very satisfied.)

And sometimes the surprise is a good one. I recently developed a roll of 120 and discovered an image I liked a lot but had zero recollection of having taken. Yet I knew I had taken it deliberately (ie., not an accidental shutter release) because the shutter of the camera I used is not easily opened and the angle from which the lens captured the scene was not one I would have naturally held my camera from. (And not least, I liked the composition.) Over the next couple of days something of a vague recollection started to come back but at the time I was really surprised. In fact I was delighted by my "discovery."

A note to Vic about Fenton's image of the "Valley of the Shadow of Death": It is supposed to have been staged. However, that doesn't mean it cannot (or should not) conjure a story as Vic suggested. After all, I would assume that was Fenton's intent.
If my physics teacher had told me, that when I grew up I would be able to stop time, and share it with the world in an instant - I’d have thought he was crazy!

Yet, here we are...
Yeah that's it, Chris. Stopping time. Nicely put. (Would you mind if I made that "Stopping Time" the name of my new one-photo-a-day blog?)
I'd be 'well chuffed' Brian :)

When I first came to the US, I'd be on conference calls for work, and I'd drop some typical British phrase, and there would be this complete silence with crickets in the background, while everyone else tried to work out what the guy with the accent had just said! :) :)
Don't know the answer, Hamish. I'll have to look into it.

Chris: I know what you mean. Try some Glasgow slang words on the San Diegans and see the response. (Cannae, wullnea, shouldnae, gonny, gee uz, windae, cloke, heed, etc.) :)
Shouldnae be a problem, Hamish. I've been posting one a day to my Flickr stream for a while now. I've decided just to link the Flickr photo to my blog.

there is a html widget
copy and paste this code into the box,it doesnt need a heading
it should put a little orange bunny with some text ... a bit like this http://hamishgill.blogspot.com/
a bit basic, but it will do for now

<div style= "border-style:solid; border-width:1px; border-color:#ccc; height:72px">
	<div style="float:right; margin: 5px 0px 0px 0px">

		<a href="http://www.realphotographersforum.com/" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.realphotographersforum.com/downloads/dont-exist.png" alt="Hugo Hare Here"/></a>
	<div style="float: right; margin: 40px 5px 0px 0px">
	<p>Follow Hugo Hare Here! -</p>

let me know when you have done it and ill see if it looks right
you will notice that hugo in our header now links to your blog ;)
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