I listen to podcasts about photography. Any time I am engaged in a task that I find tedious, I slip on my headphones, plug into my smart phone, and go to Spotify. Most photography podcasts are simple conversations and it’s like eavesdropping on people who are discussing some aspect of photography. To be honest, it is mostly uninteresting, but, occasionally, someone drops a comment that is worth thinking about. The podcasts themselves slip from memory but the comment stays, matures, and becomes a real thought. Conversations will do that.
3 August 2020 – “Latte e Fiori” I am having my morning coffe on the pation on a glorious summer morning. I do this most days.
One podcast had a guest whose photography business was extremely slow because of the corona virus and so to fill time he said that he was going to take a selfie of himself every day for a year. That idea stuck with me and I was describing it to the love of my life one day saying that I was thinking of doing the same thing. Her response was to say not to do the same thing but to do something different, change up the idea, make it my own.
This seemed like wise counsel and so I decided to take a picture of myself every day for a year doing something that I do on that day so that I create a log of how I spend my days. So, yes, they are pictures of me but of me doing something that I would normally do. And I would have to take the pictures. They had to be selfies. Susan offered to take pictures for me but I declined. Instead I got out my tripods, remote triggers, strobes and set to work.
That was on this past July 14th. Since then I have created a month and a half’s worth, and more, of images and I have learned a great deal about photography in the process. Surprisingly, this is turning into a valuable exercise.
First, I am having fun. My project reminds me that photography is not just about “art”. It is about so much more: it is about memories, recording and documenting, selling stuff, and just having fun. Yes, pleasure is a valid use of photography and maybe is its foremost purpose.
The Idea of my Selfie Project to capture photos that represent all the things I do in a typical day. Obviously photography is a large part of that but I do many other things. Some are interesting in themselves and others are rather mundane and the challenge is to make them interesting.
I go on and on about finding art in my pictures and what that would mean if I ever found it. But I am reminded that I began taking pictures because, and only because, it was fun to do. It had everything I liked: technical devices, chemistry, a little bit of magic, and it was fun. Photography was fun then and it is now. I think I was forgetting that.
As I am taking these pictures I am being challenged to make them interesting and to do them better. Although this began as play it is becoming a challenge to improve my images and to make better use of my equipment and software. I didn’t expect that. There is more to this challenge than meets the eye.
Now as I plan for the next day’s picture I am thinking of ways to create an image that is unique, interesting and an example of good photography. I am thinking about how to bring the features of my equipment into play. I want to try styles, angles, lighting I have not used before. And this is expanding my awareness of what I have and what I can do with it. And still, I am having fun.
29 July 2020 – “Mountain Walk” The basic equipment I use is a lightweight travel tripod and a remote radio trigger. The rule is that I must take the picture myself. The self timer does not work because the camera focuses when you press the button to start the timer. You either focus manually or you use a radio trigger that will initiate the focus befoe it takes the picture.
Posting my pictures on my personal Facebook page for friends and family has surprised me as many of them have told me how much they are enjoying my pictures. It never occurred to me that people would think of pictures of me as “enjoyable”. Who knew?
So where am I going with this essay. I’m not sure any more than I know where I am going with my project. I do know it has made my photography fun again. I do know that it has reminded me that photography is not all about art. It can be just fun and that is enough.
Reading about Steiglitz and his unhappiness in the Camera Club of New York I think he forgot that it was fine for him to pursue his “art” but in doing that he should not have denigrated the membership of that association for wanting to have fun with photography, to have friendships with fellow photographers, to enjoy their evenings together and to dabble in their communal darkroom. They felt it was enough to simply snap pictures and have fun. Steiglitz had lost sight of that, if he ever knew it. They were not lesser beings for having such a goal. And Steiglitz was not a better being than they because he was out to take “serious” photographs.
5 August 2020 – “In the Year of Covid” Besides the technical aspects of the picture I am trying to plan interest and humour in the subjects as well. I had never really planned my pictures the way I am doing with these. The main problem with the project is that the pictures could be dry and dull to look at with very little effort. I want to avoid that and engage the viewer. As I say, this is proving to be a lot of fun but it is amazingly instructive as well!
I am reminded of Sir William Newton who, at a meeting of the Royal Photographic Society over one hundred and fifty years ago said “Photography is a wide field: each may take from photography what he requires; he is not bound or tied to any rule that I know of; let him take his own course, by which not only photography will be advanced but art will be considerably improved.”
Whatever it is that we do, it is enough that we do it. Others may encourage and make suggestions but criticism, especially from one who considers themselves superior, is a destructive acid.
I am still interested in “art” and where in photography that may reside but my photographs of my daily activities are a different pursuit. They are meant to be fun: nothing more. If I learn from the exercise, all the better. If I happen to make “art” that is to be cherished. But art and learning is not the goal in this project. It is the fun that I seek here. And in that pursuit, there are no rules. In that quest all is fair in love and fun photography.
21 August 2020 – “Reading”