Tuesday, 9 March 2010
If you live next door to Bryce Canyon or anywhere in the American south-west, it's not too difficult to make great photographs. In the same way that the car has a huge say in the destination of the Formula 1 title, stunning landscapes tend to make it easier to take stunning photographs. Of course, you still need talent behind the camera - or the steering wheel. Richard, a bit like myself, lives in a part of the UK where such grandeur doesn't really exist. There's nothing in the landscape that makes you stand still and say "Wow!".
That means it's all down to the photographer to work with what's in front of the camera to produce interesting images. That's why I identified immediately with what he was doing and the way he managed to squeeze atmospheric shots out of his native southern England. I face the same challenges every time I venture out into the countryside up near Carnoustie. That's why I asked Richard to submit to PMQs and, like those before him, he put as much into the answers as he does into his photography.
The main body of my art photography exists as a completely solo project and is intended to please only myself. My paid work in various creative fields, from which my photography subsists, all requires a collaborative, group effort to create something final. This is fine and necessary, especially in commercial endeavours.
This does not apply to the photography I have done for friends or family, for instance. Then, I'm solely interested in pleasing them and showing them something they have not seen before, perhaps themselves in a new light. Once I changed the objective of my own photography to creating defined series of images, such as 'Finally, Brethren' and 'Lantern Slides', as opposed to a 'Photo-a-Day' style blog, then I became much more focused on exactly what I was trying to achieve.
Whilst I find this method preferable, it does not quite fit into the photoblog milieu. I only update when there is something to share, with the occasional work in progress in the meantime. This probably will not do my website's hit statistics any favours, but I find it much more satisfying than becoming a daily photo factory.
My creative education and interests lie in both technological and artistic domains. I'm drawn towards anything which combines the two, which initially led me to study for a degree in Computer Animation and Visualisation at the UK's National Centre for Computer Animation. Computer Animation is a fascinating and still very rapidly progressing field, and anyone who wishes to really get involved in it may well find themselves studying computer science, mathematics, computer programming, physics modelling, mechanics, AI, fine art, film studies, animation, life drawing, sculpture, anatomy, lighting and composition.
The mind floods with possible photo opportunities throughout recent history. We can not be everywhere at once. We just have to focus on what's happening around us. A documentary photo might well not be significant until many years after the event.
Imagine if only digital or film, but not both, could keep going into the future. Which would you vote to save and why?
Our medium is usually either grains of silver halide or an array of binary information. Whichever is best served by the available technology should prosper. Given the ease of scanning film and the big leaps in digital printing quality, the two seem to be crossing over in many ways. Digital is only beginning to show us how it will really be outclassing film in the future. There are numerous papers and demos available of 3D cameras, digital cameras with depth information for each pixel, software which builds 3D scenes and objects from moving images, cameras with focusing done in post, and aggregator technology which builds real world scenes derived from gathered photos.
Perhaps this is the area where digital will really show its qualities, both in terms of artistic potential and social impact. Let us consider though that we may end up in a position where digital information is only accessible via restrictive technology. We are dependent on the computer or access device, access which is lost once that privilege is removed. This possibility is likely a long way off, but at least a print always has the advantage of being truly independent. It would be regrettable if either were to be lost.
If you could have the use of only one camera and lens for the rest of your life, which would they be?
My trusty and battered old Canon 350d and 50mm F1.8 lens have served me well so far, being an interesting though slightly restrictive combination, with an excellent price-to-quality ratio. I'm not looking forward though to the day when my 350d's much-abused shutter finally cries out 'I'm done!' with a dull thud. But more important to me than the camera is the ability to freely interpret the resultant sensor data in a pleasing manner.
The software, the gateway of the artist to the sensory medium, is more important than any particular hardware. Without software, digital would be just 'nice' and 'convenient' rather than the game changer it has become.
Which photographer has influenced you most?
In common with many I imagine, my late Grandfather was the first to introduce me to photography, some years before I first obtained a digital camera, generously taking me to picturesque spots and walks in rural Buckinghamshire to explore using an SLR for the first time. I have since inherited his set of medium format cameras and I'm hoping soon to engage in further explorations with those too. They really are gorgeous just to look through. But, hoping to not sound too conceited, none of the popular variety of photographer springs to mind as significant influences, most likely due to ignorance, having not studied photography academically, or invested too much attention to its history privately – at least not during that crucial period when I was learning the basics and generally fumbling and blurring around. I think almost everyone feels they have to mention Ansel Adams, and I came upon his work in a retrospective manner via an excellent exhibition at the Oxford MOMA.
Without a founding in photography, I have, perhaps quite subconsciously, found myself leaning to other influences: classical romantic painters and writers, modern free-thinking, skeptical and scientific writing, Japanese woodblock print-makers of the ukiyo-e school such as Hiroshige, and perhaps most unusually (and unmentionable in fine art circles?), the sometimes beautiful, sometimes desolate, explorable interactive worlds of my current primary profession, video games, and the connected field of computer animation.
I am particularly interested in the notion of creating explorable, interactive and evocative worlds as art - for their own sake. Perhaps this is a field in which many will venture in the not so distant future. Intuition and knowledge gleamed from photography will be especially valuable for those who propose to create these worlds, and a perpetually fascinating window to gaze through now.