I’ve mentioned my new approach to photography in the recent posts without expanding on the issue. Now this post will cover that. I hope it’s easy to get. (i’m super rusty when it comes to writing these days) Also this is a slightly long read (compared to my usual posts), If you’re not interested in photography and personal ramblings of other people. skip. otherwise, I’d appreciate your opinions on the matter and looking forward to hearing about your own photography approaches.
How It Was Before
The way I used to work is the usual for any photographer I think. Although I’m certain everyone has their own habits and style; I think the shooting-until-you-get-it-right approach is universal. We want to realize our vision and we want the best we can produce so we try different angles and compositions and we shoot until we’re satisfied. Some spend ten minutes processing a photo, others spend ten hours but ultimately all photographers leave the desk only when they’re happy with what they ended up with. At least that’s my impression of serious photographers and also it was more or less how I worked (I’m just an enthusiast though).
Sometimes I walk for an hour just to take one photo that I’ve envisioned 6 kilometers away then just go back home. Of course, I go straight to it, take at least 20 different shots of that same subject, go home open Lightroom and get to work. By the time I’m finished, I’ll have the photo that is closest to my vision before I headed out three or four hours ago. Vision is our key word here. And Intention. I had a vision of the im-age and was aware of what I had to do to make it happen. All the logistical and technical actions that take place while taking a photograph are meant to realize that vision. That’s how it’s been for most of my photos but there was also another way. If you’re a follower of this blog, perhaps you’ve already read about how I came up with my recent series, A Home for Thoughts. There’s a bit of it there but not entirely.
The other way or the new experiment I’m practicing right now disregards vision and intention. Imagine bypassing your own imagination and the preparations/decision-making that follows to create photographs. It’s insanely difficult!
If there’s any meaning in my planned photos it’s because I put them there; it was my vision. What about the meaning I “found” in my own random photos; photos that I shot instinctively? Who put those feelings in there? Why am I stirred by them more than the others? That was how I started believing that there’s a voice deep down in me that has something to say and maybe I should give him the space to do so. That is shutting down my ego and my vision and let the other voice surface.
Now, I’m not about to meditate and do stuff like that (it feels like that’s where this is going, doesn’t it?) What I could do is limit the decision-making time and take photos at any time and any place and of any subject. Like I said it is truly difficult to do so. It is also self-contradictory because I am indeed planning this non-planning method of photography! It is however a deeply personal experiment/experience that I believe is interesting enough to try. Maybe not many of you will understand why adopt such approach but I will try to explain the best I can how this whole thing started.
Where It Came From
This new idea (hardly new, only new to me) came from within and without. It was personal and introspective at its roots but also has branches in my own view of how photography became after the rise of social media. There’s also the material aspect (gear and all that!)
You probably do not want to hear about how negative I am anymore. I’ve posted enough with that voice that even I got tired of it. This doesn’t make it any less real though. I am a negative person 99% of the time! I also recently lost a loved one. That did not help at all. That turned me into into a blend of emotions which I couldn’t understand and by extension I couldn’t understand myself or how I exactly felt. What parts of it were right and what parts of it were not so right. I hoped that I could find myself or at least the part that matters to me through photography. The kind of photography where I don’t have to try hard to push for a meaning. Just the opposite, I wanted the photo to show it back to me – the same way some of my random photos showed me things about my states of mind before. Up until this point, the idea was just an idea in my head. What made it into a project (with relatively well-thought out aspects) was something more down-to-earth.
Gear. Anything a photographer needs to produce the visions of his mind. In my case, all I had was a camera with a kit lens and a laptop on which I process my photos (minimalist? no. just can’t afford much!) That laptop got broken beyond repair. And that made a lot of difference because I couldn’t process my RAW files anymore. At that point, having that idea already floating aimlessly in my head, it felt like this was the push it needed to shape up into a clear project. I had no other choice really! I had to relinquish myself to the power of jpeg now! It felt like everything fell into its rightful place and simply made sense that this idea was/is the natural outcome to both my gear and emotional predicament.
Another noteworthy factor was an observation that I held in my mind since the advent of social media. (This is my own opinion) It is almost a belief that the overuse of images in social media ultimately trivialized the value of each image as a potential work of art. Authenticity died where overused app filters made the majority of photos look the same. My turn to film photography was in part because I can’t accepted the authenticity of digital anymore. Unfortunately I don’t have the resources to use film otherwise that’d have been my only approach. Now, me adopting a process-free and instinctive approach is in a way my personal response to this social media issue that ruined digital for me!
Did It Work?
Naturally, it did not. It is almost impossible to rid yourself of yourself! (a more accurate context-based phrase would be: finding yourself by ridding yourself of yourself!) However, there were some photos that had an effect on me which ultimately was the desired outcome of the approach. So maybe it was successful to a certain point. I have posted a few of them here.
Photographers want to produce the best photo possible and we get the photo we want by trial and error most of the time (at least for an enthusiast like me, not much experience) I found myself instinctively fighting back the decision of not making decisions (to better the shot). I tried hard to shoot one-ofs. No duplicates. No trying for better angle. and composition. If I pointed the camera. I made sure I pushed the shutter as quickly as I could. I didn’t care how the photo turned out. That is the whole point.
Ultimately, it became apparent that this approach is just an ideal. In theory, it’s quite clear. In reality, many factors come into play and clash against its very nature. That doesn’t mean I’m abandoning this approach. As I have said before, this is a personal experiment. Even if the photos aren’t technical on the level, some of them meant something to me. I’ll keep on taking photos with whatever’s in my hands and whenever I can. This is less about photography and more about myself. Perhaps photography ended up being a means to an end here.