The power and the emotion which can be created by an image created by somebody who knows how to use a camera has amazed me for as long as I can remember. I’ve already put down a few thoughts (Blog - PHOTOGRAPY IS*/IS NOT ART – 14 Aug 2006) to put the case that Photography can be just as much an Art as painting or music. That Blog was a bit of an abstract, general view of the photograph as an Artform – this one is my own personal take on the emotional side of it all.
I’ve spent most of my adult working life immersed in equations, numbers, spreadsheets, financial analyses and Cost benefit calculations. A blend of an unconsummated Engineering training combined with the slightly detached and unemotional view of an Accountant has allowed me to earn my lifetime’s corn – for which I will be eternally thankful. But there’s more to life than that.
My father was a keen photographer in the 50’s, and this, I’m sure, set me off on the road to picture taking. It has always struck me, looking at images in Books, Newspapers and Magazines, as well as watching the moving images on TV and the cinema, just how powerful the well taken picture can be. It has the power to excite, offend, educate, disturb, inform, make you cry, make you angry, make you almost squirm with pleasure, comfort you or blast you with one image into seeing life from a different angle.
We all see images that burn their way into our consciousness, images that we will never forget. Some of them, by the very nature of things are barbaric, violent and horrible and show us things we would rather not see. Anyone who has seen the image of the small girl in Vietnam, running naked towards the camera to get away from an American napalm attack in 1968, will have willed their eyes to look somewhere else, but they stay transfixed. I know mine were. A single picture which changed American Public opinion, and saved many lives, simply by making the war shorter. It is not a picture you would want on your wall, but think of a more simple but potent architect of change.
Life is marked by these iconic images, pictures which gradually form part of our lives without us filing them away consciously in our minds. Think of Gazza crying, Christine Keeler astride “that” chair, Che Guevara, the knickerless tennis playing girl, the student in front of the Tank, the emaciated Sudanese child’s claw-like hand nestling in a Westerner’s huge well-fed grasp – the list is literally endless, and the impact these simple two dimensional pictures generate is a real part of all our collective pasts.
I love and admire pictures such as these, for what they are, for what they have achieved, and the hardships, even on occasions deaths, which have been endured in their creation. But they are not ones I could take in a million years. They portray the hard edges of life, the wars, the conflicts, the famines and the media, both good and bad.
I come at picture taking from a completely different view. One of life’s continuing whinges is that there is no Good News. Whether it is always the news creating the pictures, or the pictures creating the news is sometimes a debatable point, but a day’s newspaper or News Bulletin with an unremitting positive, uplifting thread of stories is almost unknown. There needs to be a counterbalance, and my photography heads off in this direction.
The world around us is simply a magical place, with colour, texture, shape and above all, Light, all of which are continually on the move. The seasons change, the landscapes change, everything is different from the way it was an hour ago, and the excitement of this is something which I am led to try to capture through my camera lens. I know that will sound a bit pretentious and “luvvie”, and I would not have the temerity to call it Art – Artistic Endeavour, yes, but not Art. But it is something which can drive me in a way nothing else can.
Standing outside, usually at the start or the end of the day, always alone, with a landscape spread out in front of you, can sometimes leave you with an awesome feeling of privilege and gratitude for being alive - it can be almost religious. And I have a fervent desire to capture it for all time. Of course you can’t, but that doesn’t stop you wanting to try. Occasionally the results give you some pleasure, and very, very occasionally, you can achieve something which makes you feel quite proud – but not very often.
It’s an intensely personal view, with you being the sole judge and jury, with no Court of Appeal. Others may see them, and they may like them, or they may not. It’s nicer if they do, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. That sounds a tad selfish, but I think all Artistic Endeavour is, in the end, individual – name a great piece of Art produced by a committee. Exactly!
I think, with photography, it’s so easy today to produce an image, that it’s an absolute essential for anyone going at it at all seriously, to develop their own style. I belong to a local Photographic Society, and the best compliment anyone can pay me is when the say “I recognise that one as one of yours.” They may of course mean it rather differently from how I take the comment, but, eitherway, one’s personal imprint on an image is utterly fundamental.
The purpose of this piece is to act as a bit of a heartfelt introduction to the pictorial side of “42@60”. You can say what you like about the Internet, but it’s here to stay, and it’s an amazing medium for individuals to empty out their slide boxes, and display pictures which otherwise might lie unseen. The skill is picking images which should be seen, rather than ones which should not have been left undisturbed in the drawer!
My intent is to put pictures progressively onto the site, in three distinct groups.
Group 1 will be called “Pick of the Pics” and will consist of pictures taken by me over the years. They form what the Pop Industry would call “One Hit wonders” – these stand to be looked at on their own, with no significant thread or connection to any other picture. They might have odd similarities – over a time, you may note an unhealthy pastoral fetish for single trees in the landscape, something about which a psychologist would certainly have something to say! But they are loners, to be viewed on their own.
Group 2, called “Six of the Best” will be selected from what I call my “Concept Albums”, to carry on the musical theme. I like to set myself photographic projects – to take a series of pictures over a period of time on a given, self selected theme. The name alludes to me adding them to this Blog six at a time, rather than showing graphic pictures of my Public School misdemeanours! I like to feel this allows me to build up a sequence of images giving a more complete view of something or somewhere, compared to what I can achieve with one single picture. You will see sets of images from London, Western Ireland, Skye, Norfolk, Italy as well as more esoteric subjects such as 1960s racing car exhausts – don’t even ask!
Group 3, called “The Finest Photos – Ever” consists of images taken by other people, some already mentioned in this piece already – images which rightly and easily sit in my own personal list of “The Best pictures Ever Taken”. Now some of these ARE Art, and I will add a few personal comment about them, and the people who took them. Rest assured you will have no difficulty in identifying this Group from the other two!
So there we are, and off we go. Happy viewing.