Actually, the history first, as background.
I first started taking photos, seriously & as a young adult, in the mid 80s. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing as, armed with a used Minolta and a 45mm lens, I set out to photograph people and places.
Not only was this pre-internet, but in the poky rural setting of southern New Zealand where I was raised, there was also very little in the way of accessible written literature. However, there was enough to learn the basics.*
Anyway, I did seem to have some success with people photographs, and soon I found myself occasionally being asked to take the odd portrait of individuals, families and sports clubs. Classic case of big fish, small pond.
Then, as my world expanded, I occasionally found myself being asked to take photos further afield, in the “Big City” (which, oddly, we who actually lived in a town referred to as “Town”). This time it was of underground musicians / artists. Unfortunately, here I very quickly fell flat on my face. Lack of knowledge prevailed. Classic case of small fish, shark infested waters.
Anyway, that left me terribly embarrassed and feeling terribly guilty, so I declined all further offers and shortly after that pretty much stopped taking photographs for a decade or so.
Then, at the very tail end of the 1990s, I started to photograph once again in earnest. An early digital camera and relocating to Japan brought this on. Digital in those days was rubbish, so back to film I went, darkroom and all.
In the early to mid 2000s I found myself doing a little work for musicians in Tokyo, again all word of mouth through my personal network. Now, living in a far more organised and resource rich environment, and with the internet being in existence, some of my photos ended up on posters, postcards, flyers, CD covers and webpages.
I also had three exhibitions around this time, the first of New Zealand landscapes, the second of musician portraits and the third of abstract urban-scapes. This was just too stressful though, and left me feeling shattered.
I also wasn’t enjoying taking portraits anymore, mainly because of a poorly defined and ‘nonprofessional’ relationship with my subjects.
All of this led to me withdrawing yet again from people photography, and left me concentrating on landscapes, urban-scapes and family.
People do still see my photographs though, and again this leads to requests for photography work. For example, I’ve semi-recently turned down two weddings.
The thing is though, I still really like portraits and people photography. One of my favourite books for example is Faces by Jane Bown. I also repeatedly return to Joseph Kouldelka’s photographs of people.**
With the purchase of the X100s, I’ve found myself getting right back into enjoying and wanting to photograph people. It’s become much more of a thirst again. Much of this has to do with having a digital version of my preferred type of camera. As I’ve mentioned before, I really prefer ‘rangefinder’ style cameras and the way they make you work. I feel much more alive and spontaneous with them.*** I’ve also recently moved away from soley relying on natural light, and the new adventure-land of off-camera lighting is also exciting me with the possibilities it brings.
Within the last month or so, I’ve had several requests for photographs. All for free of course, and this would once again put me on the path that caused trouble both times before – a poorly defined relationship and no clear boundaries.
Thus the plan. More on that in the next post – this one’s way too long already.
* and now, in the internet age, I often feel that this was better as, to a degree, the more I learnt, the less happy I was. Often it’s that middling amount of knowledge that causes problems, that stifles spontaneity and adventure. A classic case of a little knowledge being dangerous
** okay, all of this photographs really
*** I have some other thoughts on that, that I may address at some stage
Typed while stuck on a delayed train, with Keaton Henson as soundtrack.