There comes a point, surely, when any amateur photographer asks the question “now what?” - now that I’ve got thousands of photos squirrelled away, that I’ve learnt what all the knobs and dials do, forgotten it, and learnt all over again. Now that I’ve bought and read all the HOW TO books. What next? The answer often seems to be, buy a new camera, or software, or something. Oh, and blog about it. But surely even Gear Acquisition Syndrome loses its allure over time? Maybe not for everybody, but for me just making semi-random photographs which a new camera every 3 months doesn’t really bring much satisfaction. The next step, if you can avoid the gear trap, is often to embark on projects. Such projects are greatly loved by the photo magazine industry. Every month, garish covers scream “SHOOT LANDSCAPES! / GARDENS! / PUPPIES! / BARE LADIES! / BITS OF TOAST!” or whatever, but all too often this is a thinly veiled cover with a gear selling pitch barely concealed beneath it. My feeling is that the biggest step comes from getting away from concentrating on the mechanisms of photography, and getting into the actual product of the creative process. I’m sure there are plenty of different ways of doing this, but I’m increasingly attracted by the idea of the photo series. By which I mean creating coherent sets of photographs, each of which may well stand alone, but which together reinforce each other through some form of common theme, structure, or intent. This is one reason that I find online photo sharing sites quite unsatisfying, as they’re pretty much all focused on the latest upload, on displaying single shots, and leave the photographer no significant control over presentation and layout. On this site in recent months I’ve tried to take a “series” approach, and even if this means nothing to anybody else, it gives me some sense of purpose. As an aside, I long ago realised that it is extremely easy to attract visitors to a photography site - just be controversial about gear. This post is by far my most viewed, and remains perched high on top of the weekly rankings. Heavens only knows why people find it interesting. So if I wanted eyeballs over all else, I’ve no doubt I could get them.
Anyway, all this web stuff is all very well, but it doesn’t set the bar very high. Getting a photo published here and there in OLYMPUS magazine is neither challenging nor exactly earth shattering. The next step is to have the nerve to submit a printed portfolio to a real, honest-to-goodness magazine, and one with good artistic credentials at that. Is it over-ambitious of me? Probably, but you have to start somewhere. So I put together a series of photos which I actually have a strong connection with. There aren’t that many subjects that I really connect with - and the name of this website is a good pointer to one of them. Combining this with what some have described as my “signature”, more heartfelt panoramic format, putting together a series was relatively easy. At least it was easier than writing the description, CV and covering letter. I’d finished the actual prints before Christmas. I finished the covering letter last night, and the whole package went in the post this morning. One small step…
Obviously there is perhaps more than a passing resemblance here to the work of Stuart Klipper, whose praises I’ve sung on this blog. But, in my self-defence, I only discovered his work on the day I took the first photo in this series, and indeed had it not been for an unfortunate encounter with a gale in the Arctic, I’d possibly have made a similar series some three years ago.
I’ll let you when the rejection letter arrives. It will be in French.