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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 (3)