The final assignment is an open brief. Take a series of 10 photographs of any subject exploring the theme ‘Photography is Simple’. Each photograph should be a unique view; in other words, it should contain some new information, rather than repeat the information of the previous image.
I found such an open ended brief quite daunting and difficult to approach. I had a few initial ideas;
Views of Norwich – not the postcards, but my Norwich. Places views etc that are important to me or that I notice regularly.
Things in general that catch my eye that looks interesting to me. Be it constrained to a location or a timeframe.
Discarded masks. I have noticed so man discarded and lost masks since the beginning of the pandemic. I find a weird eerie sense of beauty in them.
Revisit A1 Hellesdon views idea; things I see everyday that many people don’t notice.
I ended up following a bit of a hybrid of the two ideas by taking photographs of anything that caught my eye or looked appealing to me on my daily walks around where I live.
I’m very aware having photographed for work for many years that a lot of my photography is second nature and instinctive, usually done on autopilot. For this assignment I wanted to put more conscious thought into my photography, and think about what goes into the image.
I have found that studying photography and breaking it down like this surprisingly difficult. Combined with the second guessing and overthinking of my work, I am often paralysed into not feeling able to produce any work at all! I am very aware that this is an issue with all lines of creative arts, but as I learn more about the way my brain works I feel that having done photography for so long professionally that the critiquing of every step when I’m so used to working on autopilot is just a bit overwhelming! On reflection, this might be one of the reasons I have decided to change my study path and explore something new where I can build on fresh foundations.
I felt very self conscious walking around with camera on the same streets I walk everyday, and felt curtain twitchers were watching me! I had posted on my street Facebook group about what I was up to in case anyone was alarmed (it’s not common to see people photographing around here) and everyone was very supportive and even offered their gardens for photographs! I found that any onlookers I did encounter just seemed confused as to what exactly I was photographing!
As I walked around, many sights I thought would look good just didn’t work in the frame when I raised the camera to my eye. Sometimes this was only realised after I took the photo, other times I didn’t even bother pressing the shutter. This was both interesting and frustrating. It turned out some of the images I liked most were ones I hadn’t expected to work at all, but it was also annoying that I was unable to photograph other scenes as I saw them in my head.
I enjoyed having the freedom of just taking images as I saw them of things that caught my eye. But it also made it harder to know what to photograph; not having a restrictive brief.
As I made the photographs I realised that there is a lot that goes into each image that I often do automatically:
I shot fully in manual making decisions on Shutter (movement and exposure),Aperture (Depth of Field and exposure), as well as ISO. This was helpful when choosing to freeze or blur movement in the roundabout image for example.
I used a prime 35 mm lens so had to consider positioning of my body and the camera.
Composition – I spent little time composing the images as walking with my daughter, so I shot mostly on spontaneous instinct.
When to press the shutter to create the image, the image could change in one moment to the next based on other peoples’ movements.
Why am I taking this photo? It’s just something I see everyday, what am I trying to show?
Find the beauty within the frame and make an interesting image, regardless of context.
I was conscious that I wanted a variety of different images, not an obvious series; only linked by a relative location.
I didn’t really consider much beyond the initial creation of the image. It was a recording exercise rather than a narrative exercise. There was not a deep meaning behind each image other than taking a closer look at the views I see regularly and think about the ‘act’ of photography.
I’ve been thinking about how the same photo locations could have been photographed in a completely different way; close ups, wider landscapes, black and white for a small selection of examples.
A completely different set of images could have been produced in the same locations at the same time with the same camera. Had someone else been photographing with me they would have almost certainly taken different photographs. If I go out and walk the same route and take another set of images, would I end up with the same results? Even if I attempted to recreate them exactly? Would different options present themselves that are more appealing than my original images? Does it actually matter if my goal was less about the final image and more about switching off auto pilot, and think more about the different elements of photography?
I would like to explore this further with a re-shoot. The same route – once taking a new series of images, and once more to recreate my favourites from those to shoots to compare the outcomes. Maybe also experimenting more and spending more time composing images.
My least favourite image is the street scene with the cars parked outside the houses. I was trying to show a typical street scene with the bins waiting to be collected and the boat on the driveway providing some interest, but I feel the image lacks any impact and visual appeal.
My favourite image is the one of the junction, which is on a road on the short journey between my house and my parents house, where they have lived since I was a child. I must have driven through this junction tens of thousands of times but I never appreciated the shapes where the various curves all come together.
The idea that ‘photography is simple’ might seem to be the case in many circumstances; after all most of the population carry cameras around in their pockets all day every day.
With 1,074 photos a second uploaded to image sharing social media platform Instagram (Adams, S. 2021), photography is so accessible to everyone, that to many it is indeed simple. Photos of pets, family, food etc are often quick snaps on a phone with little thought or construction beyond ‘point and shoot’.
But when we go beyond snapshots and consider photography as an artform, there are just too many layers for this statement to be true.
As I have already touched on, there is so much that goes into creating an image, including but not limited to:
The moment the shutter is pressed
The composition within the frame
How a photograph is edited
The format on which the image is captured
There are many further technical considerations such as the type of camera used, lens choices, artificial or natural lighting and how to use these within the photograph.
Many of these factors and calculations happen instantaneously within the photographers head when shooting, but equally many hours can be spent deliberating over such variables and preparing to create an image.
You could also think about the three levels of photography as explained by Shore, S (2010) – Physical, Depictive and Mental. Each level looking at different elements of a photograph; its physical presence in the actual media it is presented on, the depictive nature of a photograph in that the physically flat image shows a 3d world, a moment in time, or a specific subject set apart from it’s environment, and the mental level of our perception of an image, or the mental imprint the photographer makes on the photograph while creating it.
So as there are so many variables, approaches and perceptions of photography, I believe the premise that ‘photography is simple’ is, on the whole, wrong. I think if it was that simple there wouldn’t be entire academic careers and indeed lifetimes devoted to this art and the way it can be used to communicate the way they see world around us.
However with the likes of camera phones being common place a simple form is available to anyone who wishes to utilise it, and so I feel the most accurate phrase would actually be “photography is as simple as you want it to be”.