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- ESSAYS

WHY I PHOTOGRAPH.....

“10% of all photos ever taken were shot in 2011”

Fortune Magazine, September 24, 2012

I remember reading this quote last year and going wow! That seemed amazing. I’m not sure of the accuracy or even how they measured such a statistic, but it certainly got me thinking and it may well be right! We’re more or less coming to the end of a 10 year period or possibly even longer where we have been under going a cultural switch over to digital imaging. It started with digital cameras and the development of the affordable point and shoot range of cameras, and now we’re up to the stage where we are all (or nearly all) carrying around a decent camera via a cell phone or tablet. The result is that we always have a camera readily available and there is nothing we won’t photograph! However if I was to make a guess of my own about all those photos taken in 2011, it is that 99.9% of those shot would not be remembered longer than a few days!

Recently when visiting the met service website to check the rain radar before deciding about the options of taking the push bike out, (I can be a bit soft sometimes) I clicked on the photo of the week which they display on their homepage. Eventually with too much clicking I ended up on the Flickr website. It’s a huge photo-sharing site where anybody can upload their images to share with the world; and sharing they are in huge numbers. Quickly you realize there are a lot of people taking some very nice images. But for me after only a short time on the site I start to feel bogged down by the large majority of images that I simply have little connection with. It’s a little like going to a sporting fixture where your home team is not even playing, yes it might be a good spectacle if your lucky, but does it really have much relevance to you personally?

Modern cameras are magnificent in their ability to allow anybody to take a good image. It is a ‘magic box’ that will produce the most beautifully focused and colour managed images that would meet all our needs while also giving us real-time feedback at the time of clicking the ‘shutter’ and allowing us to take multiple variations of the subject at no extra cost. They are quite incredible!

If I think to long about the abilities of modern cameras and the huge quantities of images being produced and websites such as Flickr that allows the whole world to look on, I begin to question myself about adding to the pile? I know I‘m privileged to have customers who buy prints from me, which allows a little of that doubt to be removed. But I’ve come to realise that to remove all of the doubt and questioning which bounces around so noisily inside my skull, is to remember that the reason I photograph is that the images are selfishly about me and that I am my primary audience. Because what it is I’m photographing are the things that made me stop and look and inquire about. They are the moments when I’m delighted by my own presence at that place at that time. They are moments when I’m engulfed by the stillness and quietness of being there and acknowledging the existence of whatever is in the viewfinder, including both the human and natural forces that created and carved what is before me into the form that it exists at that moment when I push the shutter.

I don’t know what the % of all photos ever taken were shot in 2012, or what it maybe for this year, however I do know I still need to take images for me, and so will be adding to the count for sure; in a very slow film using kinda way!