I’ve been saying for a long time now that I’m more interested in the act of taking a photo than the resulting photo itself. This has always been a conceptual thing, looking at how engaging with the world through this machine, the camera, might change out perception and understanding of it. And it was also a realising that I was utterly bored of seeing photos framed and hung in galleries and coffee shops when there were so many more photos floating around the Internet to explore. When Jenny and I were (pre-Camera Obscura) idly talking about doing a photography festival I wanted to see if you could do one without any prints, without any exhibitions.
But like all conceptual obsessions there’s a root in the personal, and it’s finally grown so large that I can’t ignore it. In the last few months I have developed a visceral aversion to processing my photographs.
By processing I mean putting them through Lightroom on my Mac and posting them to Flickr for people to look at. This is the closest I probably get to making prints for a gallery and it seems my aversion to galleries has crept, like mould, towards my online activities.
Yes, there are issues around Flickr being a ghost-town (but I tried the community-centric 500px and it didn’t stick). Yes there is the sense that my photos mean nothing within the vast oceans of digital images swirling around online. But these things shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter if no-one sees them. Making the photos themselves should be enough.
Indeed, I still enjoy taking them as much as I ever did. I get a creating thrill from being in a place, exploring it with my eyes, and recording the reflected light onto a rectangular canvas. I get a kick from looking at the screen on the back of the camera and seeing that, yes, I got that one. I made an art.
But after that, not so much really.
And it’s not that I just can’t be bothered to process the photos. It’s that, once selecting the good ones and rejecting the mistakes and iterations, I get this stubborn feeling of “don’t want to”, like a child who doesn’t want to do whatever that child has arbitrarily decided they don’t want to do.
And so they stay in Lightroom, until I decide enough is enough and I give them a simple process before dumping them on Flickr.
The exception this holiday has been the three Hockney-esque joiners I made. Click on them for bigger.
With these I relished the processing, probably because I didn’t know what they’d look like until I finished. And once they were joined I only did a small bit of processing – some levels adjustment – to finish them off.
It’s also interesting to note that I have no such qualms about posting to Instagram. Here I always process in some way, since Instagram introduced proper processing tools alongside those (really quite terrible by any standard) filters. A bit of clarity, some warmth, a slight crop. And processing in Lightroom isn’t any more complicated – in many ways it’s easier, given its purpose as a workflow tool.
As Gary Winogrand famously said, “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.” Once you’ve done that, what else is there to do?
Make more photos, I guess.
In conclusion I think the elephant in the room here might be a selfish need for something like affirmation from you lot, my audience (for want of a better word) which has become diluted over the years. I want to put my photos out there and get the views and the faves and the comments. Rationally I know that doesn’t matter, but this is not rational. This is running up to mummy with a painting and big eyes waiting for the reward of praise. It needs to be eradicated. The feedback loop needs to be, if not cut then severely curtailed.
I shall try something new. Post everything to Flickr as it emerges from my camera(s), but select (or do I mean curate?) those few I think are good. My photos that are, by my definitions, art.
I’ve been saying I’m an artist who uses photography, which excuses me from worrying about the standard of my photography. From now I shall also be a photographer who uses art.