Versions of reality
Pressing the shutter button on my camera should mean I'm capturing a moment in real time, yet the resulting image is anything but objective, as it presents the viewer with my personal experience and interpretation of a particular moment. Interpretation being the key word, both in terms of the image I choose to make, and how it is experienced by the viewer.
Photography involves choices, some technical, most subjective, particularly when it comes to the choice of subject matter and lighting. Picking up a camera and capturing a moment in time, particularly in the digital age, appears almost more science that it does art, yet even with so much technology at our disposal, the images we make are more likely to be the result of an unconscious process, influenced by any number of environmental and personal factors that we don't necessarily consider at the precise moment of making a photograph. In fact, the image we end up with is often a serendipitous coincidence of practise, patience and luck.
Even after creating a particular image, or group of images, there is still the process of choosing which version of that image, or group of images, is the one that best represents the reality the photographer captured, or responded to, at a given moment in time. You only have to look at a contact sheet of 4, 8, 12, or more, of the same image, to see that there is always one that stands out - that has a been circled or ticked as "The One". A lot of the time this choice is technical, but even if each image were technically equally strong, the chosen image is the one that just feels right; the selected image is the one that presents a reality that the photographer intended to capture, or if shooting for a client, the reality the client wishes to present in printed form.
What makes a particular version of reality resonate with a particular person is subjective, of course, but then reality itself is subjectively experienced by all of us, despite apparently hard evidence to the contrary.
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Best laid plans
I begin this long overdue post with a quote from my previous post (we won't focus on how long ago that was): "On reflection, the answer, for me, is to both engage with social media and disengage from the noise that comes with it. Hopefully I will find a path to follow in the coming year, that works well for me, and even, maybe, produce a couple of images that do qualify as "best" in the process."…
Clearly, the disengage part has been a larger part of the process over the last two months, partly because my focus has been on helping my daughter through a tough transition period, partly because I've hit the photographic equivalent of writer's block. Having set myself a task I have summarily failed to deliver on it, which is, lets's be frank, a bit rubbish. Yes, I've taken photos - and even made a few I can live with - but I'm still in the process of finding a path forward. As a photographer who is drawn to street photography, documentary photography, and environmental portraiture, I increasingly feel compelled to tell a story through my work. Equally, I find myself increasingly drawn to developing two very different shooting and post-production techniques, which contrast and almost contradict. I'm trying to work out whether I should only focus on one, or continue to develop both alongside one another. Will this lead to a sort of photographic schizophrenia, or will it enable me to tell more than one story (almost) simultaneously?
Although I don't have an answer to this question, I do know that I should have a long-term project in mind, as well as a clear voice that will tell a story through my images (preferably in a way that engages the viewer). I've even got as far as establishing the best way - for me - for achieving these two objectives, although I will have to wait for the tide to turn before I can get on with the plans I have in mind. The only challenge is how best to deal with my inner troll, and the little issue of catching the tide at the right moment.
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Reflecting on moving forward
#2016bestnine as seen on Instagram thesometimephotographer
Like so many other photographers, I find social media a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it's a great medium for reaching a wider audience, and for allowing me to connect with fellow photographers from all over the world; on the other hand, it is time-consuming and requires constant attention. I guess it's a bit like parenting a demanding toddler; you've connected with it, you want to nurture it and see it develop over time, but equally the constant demands wear you down, and you have days when all you want to do is get someone else to look after it for you (even though you would never in a million years hand over your "baby" to someone else's care).
Having recently begun work on a couple of short- and long-term photography projects, including a #365project, I've been trying to review my work from the past year and compile a collection of my 12 favourite images from the passed year. How did I forget (in just 12 short months) just how time-consuming an activity this is, especially if you shoot in mobile and DSLR format, and never quite manage to ensure all your images are catalogued in one, easy-to-access format? I guess this in itself is a lesson! Photography #newyearsresolution1 is to manage my workflow so that it includes a file of my personal "best of the month" images. I'll let you know how successful I've been in 365 days' time.
Coming back to my not-too-successful reviewing-the-year activity, I found it interesting that some of my most popular images on Instagram thesometimephotographer aren't always ones I'd have chosen as my "best" or "favourite" of the year. Some of the images considered "best" by the #2016bestnine App are not what I would consider my best images; in fact "best" in this case is a slight misnomer as the result is based on the number of likes received by your "best nine" posts of the year. Did any other photographers feel this was the case for them, or did they feel that their top performing images were also their best?
Now that I'm a couple of weeks into my #365project, this contradiction (between what I want to create and what a viewer might engage with) could become a factor in my life as a photographer over the next year, as I know that there will be days when I will feel the pressure to deliver on my #365project whilst not feeling particularly inspired - or not even happy with the images I've produced on a given day. These will no doubt be the days where the knowledge that the average viewer will only engage with any given post for 2 seconds or less could be motivator or demotivator; only time will tell.
On reflection, the answer, for me, is to both engage with social media and disengage from the noise that comes with it. Hopefully I will find a path to follow in the coming year, that works well for me, and even, maybe, produce a couple of images that do qualify as "best" in the process.
I'm also going to view social media as a (mostly) positive thing, not least because I appreciate the time taken by people who actually view my work, and even take the time to like it or comment on it.
On which note, I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been following me in 2016 - your support is very much appreciated. Happy New Year to one and all!
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#lyndahiggsphotography #reflections #2016bestnine #lyndahiggsphotographyblog #photographer #photographyblog #happynewyear
The Starting Point
Having decided to start on a #365 #photography project in December may have been a bit counter-intuitive, on reflection. Not only is this a ridiculously busy time of year (for anyone), but it's possible not the best time of year to indulge in what is, let's be honest, a somewhat solitary and introspective activity.
Having got off to a rather haphazard start, I'm slowly managing to make/take at least one image a day and I'm realising, in the process, that I've missed practising my craft on a daily basis. I've also realised just how rusty I am after so many months of not working every day - in fact, can I even call myself a photographer after such a long period of inactivity? Does one need to shoot every day to trully call themselves a photographer, or is it good to step away from something if one just isn't "feeling it"? Thoughts on a postcard, please!
I'm hoping that as I continue with this challenge, I will become better at managing my time and workflow (translation: get better at juggling the-rest-of-my-life and my work, and procrastinate less), and that I will get a better idea of who I am as photographer. To keep myself motivated, I'll be setting myself regular mini-challenges, from trying different techniques and genres (although always #streetphotography is, and always will be, my first love). If you have any suggestions for topics or techniques you've found fun/challenging/interesting, I'd love to hear from you.
To paraphrase a cliché, if it is about the journey and not the destination, then I hope that having started at some random point on the calendar will have little bearing on what the next 12 months will reveal. It will no doubt be a tough journey, given the commitment it requires, and I suspect there will be a few bumps along the way, contrasting moments of ennui with enthusiasm, fear with frivolity, but hopefully I'll reach day 366 having learned loads and had some fun en route.
I would love it if you would join me on my journey by following me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter at:
#lyndahiggsphotography #thesometimephotographer #blog #photographyblog #365 #streetphotography #photography #people #Glasgow #mobilephotography #shotoniphone6 #startingpoint #journey
Lynda Higgs is a Fine Art Photographer specialising in Street and Travel Photography. She has lived and travelled in diverse cultures over the last 20 years, and currently lives in vibrant Glasgow, Scotland, with her husband and young daughter.
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