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plus ça (ne) change (pas)

in General Rants , Wednesday, March 08, 2023

So, I’m back from Iceland. Quite a few of my posts here have probably started with similar wording. I have added another 1400 or so rather average photos to my very large collection of rather average photos.

I think it would be reasonable to expect that after well over 20 years of trying that my photographic output might have improved somewhat, but the hard evidence from a first review is that it hasn’t. The usual collection of dull compositions and technical screwups dominates. Photos that seemed really compelling when I was taking them just fall flat on the computer screen.

Also I just repeat myself. Below are two examples of photos I took a week or so ago compared to similar ones taken in the same locations years ago. Apart from the weather, and somewhat different focal lengths, they are identical, or at least interchangeable. When confronted with the same scene, I pretty much tried to do exactly the same thing with it, with equal lack of artistic merit in both cases. I was not conciously duplicating anything, indeed I didn’t remember the earlier shots when taking the new ones. I might forgive myself for the earlier failures, had I actually learnt from them, but clearly I did not.

These two photos featuring the now extremely well-known small church in Buðir were taken in 2004 (left) and 2023 (right). There is no significant difference in my approach, and neither works well.

These two photos taken at the equally trampled Goðafoss were taken in 2008 (left) and 2023 (right). Again, I tried exactly the same approach, and in both cases it fails to either convey anything specific about the location, or alternatively offer a pleasing detail composition. At least I am consistently hopeless 😊

I’ve tried various strategies to improve my output. I’ve studied the work of photographers I admire. I’ve tried quite radical technical changes. But all to no avail. The only work I’m a little more satisfied with fits into the “urban landscape” box, which nobody I know is at all interested in. It certainly doesn’t appeal to non-photographers, and I don’t have any photographer friends, so it’s all pretty much interesting to me only.

Actually that’s maybe a key point. Without wanting to get too wishy-washy, my theory is that I photograph largely to create a narrative to place myself in. I have dual Swiss- British nationality, but I don’t have significant roots in either country. So for years I have subconsciously been trying to create some sort of anchor for myself. I don’t have much of a connection to most places I travel to, such as Iceland, so in those cases my unconscious motivation to photograph fails to spark. And when it does, it kicks in more in urban environments than out in the landscape. So I’m probably trying to photograph the wrong subjects, even though I actually enjoy more being out in the natural landscape.

I think I’m more of a consumer of photography than a creator. I have a large and ever-growing collection of photo books, and I get a lot more pleasure out of these than I do out of looking at my own photos, in general. And of the general standards of composition, interpretation and presentation and unreachably higher than my own. It is what it is.

I don’t suppose I will stop photographing, but I do think I need to make peace with the fact that “average” is the very best I can hope to attain, and refocus my energies on other things in life.

So this will probably be the last post here for quite a while. Maybe for ever. I’ve pretty much said all I’ve got to say, indeed far more than that. Over twenty years is a pretty good run for a blog. Time to let it rest.

Posted in General Rants on Wednesday, March 08, 2023 at 02:24 PM • PermalinkComments (4)


Bernard March 09, 2023 - 11:16
David, I think you may be a little hard on yourself. I find the new photograph the church in Buðir to be better than the earlier one in termes of composition (that's all I can say at the small size the photo is presented).
But I get what you say… it is hard to reconcile oneself with the fact that one does not reach the level one was aspiring to - welcome to life. But the pleasure of photographing is still here, for me at least, and although I do not have any photographer friend either, it is enough to sustain my "inclination" to keep taking photos. What I tend to dislike more and more however is the whole business of post-processing, perpetually lagging months (years) behind the new photos…
And as for the blog, I have said it before, but your infrequent posts are always welcome, I appreciate your tone, your witty and curmudgeonly comments - and your photos!


Project Hyakumeizan March 09, 2023 - 12:24
On the contrary - as one of your fans - I think you should step up the frequency of your posts on this estimable blog. It would be a shame to let it lapse. I, for one, appreciate the mix of topics, part technical, part aesthetic. Your rants are particularly memorable and to-the-point. More rants please ... : )


david mantripp March 10, 2023 - 11:07
Thank you both, it's kind of you to comment. Various circumstances have led me to feel that it will do me good to step back for a while, although I will carry on participating in my usual vaguely committed way on Flickr - and also on VERO, which seems worth a try.

The nagging feeling that I need to keep creating content here has actually been a bigger mental burden than I realised. Casting it off, temporarily or not, is quite a relief. I'm not planning on shutting the site down, and I might still upload photo diary entries, but generally the presentation here isn't doing my photos any favours. Lots of stuff would need to be fixed, and even if technically I suppose it isn't totally beyond me, the commitment required certainly is.

Side note, usually it takes me days if not weeks the create blog posts here. The above entry pretty much wrote itself in under 15 minutes, which must mean something.


Leslie Ashe May 17, 2023 - 1:16
I dip in here now and again and would do so more often if there were more frequent posts. However, I have tried a blog and know how difficult it is to continue with content over time.

You are in my bookmarks and I will continue to look from time to time.

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