I have recently been through a period of fallow; a time when I have felt the need to read, listen and reflect; a time during which many thoughts, ideas and feelings have been almost perceptibly shaking down and clearing. I love this process of consideration and learning which takes place beyond the purely visual. It seems odd sometimes that a lover of photography can go through fairly lengthy times of not wanting to look at photographs – neither his own nor those of anybody else. I do feel though that the visual aspect of one’s sensibility is tremendously enhanced by engaging with other disciplines – music, poetry, prose, political ideas, philosophy to name just a few – and that coming out of such a period of thinking – one outside the boundaries of one’s normal thoughts – engenders a creative momentum which adds much to one’s familiar and habitual medium (in my case photography). I suppose it is natural to frequently experience this re-emerging at the onset of Spring but I now have the inkling of an unstoppable upthrust of motivation and inspiration.
Inspiration is something new I have started to include in this blog; the linking to sites and ideas which pull me along and make me remember, during those frequent times of forgetting, why I feel driven to create. This clip of Benjamin Zander – from what I believe to be perhaps the most inspiring website on the planet, TED.com – sums up for me why creatively engaging with life can be such a thrilling experience. It also serves as a reminder that, whatever we choose to do, the ripples and resonances of our actions may well reach and touch others’ lives in ways we might never imagine.
Not very long ago I bought an old Lubitel on Ebay with the intention of converting it into a pinhole camera. Just from curiosity I decided to try it out as it arrived with me, complete with lens and an old roll of partly exposed ORWO film still inside. The blemishes are entirely and purely what showed on the film after processing without any kind of post-processing. I have to admit I really like the mystery and the imperfection of it. This is my hand, I think, even though I have no recollection of making the exposure. It does show on the film after an exposure which I know I made so was not on the film when I received it. I find myself intrigued and fascinated by this image which is most certainly mine but which I can neither explain nor recall.
I was caught on the hop by the deadline on this year’s RPS Print exhibition which I missed by a couple of days. This is the only group photographic show I regularly enter and felt quite sore at my lack of foresight and organisation. However, on checking the RPS website I was overjoyed on Friday to see the announcement of an extension until Monday to allow the arrival of entries delayed by the bad weather we have had here in the UK.
I spent Friday evening into the early hours of Saturday revisiting and reprinting my best images from the last twelve months or so. Then I rose early the next morning to finish off the last two prints and get down to the post office to catch the final guaranteed delivery for Monday. This exhibition rarely fails to excite me in the range of work displayed and above all the technical competence show by the exhibitors. Time will tell if this sentiment remains when my submission is considered. In the last few years, as far as I am aware, only one pinhole photograph has reached the final selection of 125 prints out of the many thousands submitted from around the world. Although I submitted pinholes last year, none were accepted and one of my lens photos made it through. This year I am fascinated to see what happens as I send in four prints, all pinhole images.
It raises questions in my mind, which I have mulled over many times in the past, regarding whether it is important to know about the hardware behind an image. I always feel that my my home-made cameras should be given some advantage over the ranks of photographs issuing from mass-produced, shop-bought technology. How deluded! But still part of me feels that the difficulty and experimentation involved in low-tech photography deserves some kind of recognition. I suppose that ultimately this kind of feeling should not colour a dispassionate review of what one presents to the world. Photographs will always stand or fall by their content and not the method of their creation.