Questions that got me thinking:
“How did you come to photography?”
This question was asked of a professional photographer. So, I suspect the aim was to ask why he pursued that particular career. But what about the rest of us, those who make no money from our photographic endeavours? How did this act of taking photos, this now ubiquitous act, began in our lives?
When I was a child, we were told these pieces of equipment were very special and that the image surface should never be touched. This resulted in an awe and reverence that children of today may never associate with photography.
I also noticed that the grown-ups around me valued the act of making and framing a picture, but I didn’t seem to draw as well as others, and I was hopeless at painting. So, during high school, I decided that photography would be my creative outlet.
I got my first SLR at age 18; a Minolta.
“What did photography offer that was different from other arts?”
Some years later, I did learn to draw. I enjoyed it very much but, as with many physical skills, it’s not like riding a bike. I downed pencils for a while and found it very hard to pick up again.
In contrast, it’s quite easy to get back into photography. I know this because my enthusiasm would fizzle when I faced the question, “What do I do with all these photos?” They couldn’t be valued by other grown-ups if they were buried in a box in a cupboard. Enlargements and frames were expensive. You’ve got to be really, really good to exhibit.
With a blog to support, I now have a place to present my work, including the lessons I’ve learnt the hard way, and my enthusiasm is kicked along by the need to manage in a digital world.
“How has your approach to photography changed?”
The first change was the move from prints to transparencies when I turned 18. Transparencies felt like grown-up photography; the world of the professionals and experts. Unfortunately, they required more equipment – light boxes, portable viewers, projectors and a screen. At that age, there were very few dollars to spare, and it was back to prints.
Of course, the big change was film to digital.
First, I can no longer avoid the technical aspects of my camera. They confront me at every turn, so I must confront them. I feel like a child.
Second, I take less photos of people. I balk at putting people on the internet. It feels too intrusive. The world is not a lounge room of family and friends sharing a laugh. If I don’t want to publish a photo of myself, I have no right to publish photos of others.
“What inspires you most?”
An intellectual challenge motivates me. Womankind magazine runs photo competitions. The current theme is “Dignity”. I’ve got some ideas around work ethic and the pursuit of a goal, but not sure how to present them visually. I want a strong image; nothing cliche.
Thinking about it, it is dignity that inspires me. I am inspired by the dignity I see in others. I am inspired to cultivate my own self-respect. (That answer doesn’t have much to do with photography, does it!)
“Looking back, what stands out?”
When I was young, there was an intense contradiction between the small black and white prints and the huge colour projections. The projections were large enough for the extended family to share in one sitting. In contrast, the prints were small, the size of the negative produced by a Kodak Box Brownie.
I also recall that, as I got older, the excitement that should have accompanied every camera purchase was completely overwhelmed by the dread of new wizardry and technology. The simplicity of the box camera was long gone.
More recently, the stand out buzz is blowing up my favourites to A3 size. It’s a return of the huge colour projections of my childhood. Turns out, I love making books.
“Looking forward, what’s next?”
A1. That’s big.
Or does that put my enthusiasm at risk again? What would I do with such large photos?
So much has changed in the world of photography over the last 53 years. Thinking through my answers to these questions, I’m surprised at how much of our individual attitudes to the photographic image may be influenced by where in that history we first encountered a camera.
The questions were paraphrased from an article published the Smithsonian Magazine website: