Having returned from a recent trip to California to attend a family wedding I was able to reflect on the changes I had seen in the 10 years since we had last visited the golden state. During that visit Barak Obama was campaigning hard for the presidency that he would eventually win a few months later. I remember meeting some campaigners on the street and sharing their optimism and hope for the future of this great nation. Now there is a very different president in office, and I met family and friends who were very down-hearted and fearful of what was happening to their country, but I also met people who thought Donald Trump was the best thing since sliced-bread. The strange thing to me was that the most vociferous supporters of Trump that I met were Mexican-Americans, many of them second or third generation immigrants. It goes to show that you can’t assume what political leanings a person may have based on their ethnicity or race.
These are some of my favourite images that I took on our trip. The area in Los Angeles in which we stayed was very pleasant, and near a great beach.
Being an amateur photographer gives me an enormous amount of freedom in deciding how, or if, I want to share my photographs. Having just read an article by professional photographer Bruce Percy entitled Should Photography Be A Private Endeavour I must confess his conclusion really hit home for me, as I have been struggling to find a level of sharing that I feel comfortable with. The conclusion he reaches is that “We do photography for no other reason, than we do it for ourselves”. This is something I know deep down ought to be reason enough, but I have doubts about my ability to enjoy my hobby if I don’t share my photographs.
Let’s see if I can break this down. I am old enough to have enjoyed 35mm film photography for a couple of decades before I got my first digital camera, a 2MP Fujifilm point and shoot. During the years I shot film I was usually the only person to see the results of my labour. I may have put some of the pictures into photo albums and bored my friends and family with them, but largely they just went into storage boxes and were viewed only occasionally, and in recent years not at all. I don’t remember this being an impediment or discouragement to going out and taking pictures – it was the cost of film and processing that did that – so I was capable back then at least of enjoying photography just for the sake of it.
Roll on nearly forty years later and I have multiple ways of sharing, and believe me I have tried many: blogs, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and now Instagram. But I have never felt more unhappy about my photography.
Why this is so is, partly, a bit of a mystery to me. Who doesn’t want to get that little buzz that comes from a ‘like’ or a ‘fave’ from friend or stranger? Is there anything wrong with that? Well perhaps there is. My motivations have changed and I feel it whenever I raise the camera to my eye and think – how will this look on Instagram? It has changed how I look at the world, and I now tend to dismiss the kind of quiet images that I secretly love to see and produce. I love black and white photography, but I know that on sharing sites I get fewer likes for most of them than I do for the colour images.
So I have decided to only use Instagram in the way that the designers first envisaged – hosting photographs taken with my smartphone. I’ll keep it for fun and creativity, as I actually find using the smartphone quite liberating. For my ‘serious’ photography I am going to try what Bruce Percy suggests – keeping it back for myself. I’ll do this on a private Flickr account and if I want to share a few images I’ll do it here or make them public on Flickr. I will not worry myself about sharing potentially hundreds of photographs I like that I have taken in the last ten years. It may not work as a way forward but I will give it a try to see if the desire to produce personal work for myself is enough to sustain my photography.
I have always striven for simplicity in everything I do, and that includes photography. So owning a Fujifilm X-T1 with two prime lenses – the 23mm f/2 and the 35mm f/2 – felt like owning one lens too many. I decided I was prepared to sacrifice flexibility for simplicity and chose the Fujifilm X100F compact camera with its fixed 23mm f/2 lens and smaller form factor. I have also been experimenting a bit with street photography – something I feel very self-conscious about whilst doing it – and I thought the X100F might help to make me feel more confident and less visible.
Having owned the very first iteration of the X100, back in 2012, I knew what to expect in terms of look and feel, but the performance has come on in leaps and bounds. I will almost certainly have regrets about selling off my X-T1 and those two primes, but I’m looking forward to not having to decide which lens to use.
Here is an image from my first walk around town with my new toy. It’s a straight out of camera JPEG using the Acros film simulation. It will take me a while to work out what settings to use for the JPEGs, but I also capture images in RAW so as to have the best of both worlds.
I think it is traditional to start a new blog with a declaration of intent. The trouble is I have been here before, with many blogs and Web sites began with the best of intentions and then allowed to languish owing to lack of inspiration or deleted in frustration. So if I say that this blog may touch on many things but principally photography then you can take that with a large pinch of salt, but I hope this time it will be different.
Recently I deleted my Facebook account, not so much because of disgust at the selling of my data (which no-one could be surprised was happening), but rather my disgust at myself for spending so much time looking at other people’s curated lives. That was followed by a re-setting of my Twitter account, although I keep it active I no longer follow anyone. That may change if I find I have something to say here.
That leaves the two social media accounts I feel most reluctant to delete, and to which I do in fact post regularly – Flickr and Instagram. This blog could in theory act as a central hub where I can syndicate the content to other platforms. I have been reading a bit about the principles of the IndieWeb, in particular through the lens of Chris Aldrich, and the benefits of doing it yourself through the experience of Dan Cohen. I don’t aim to emulate them just yet (I’m not terribly technically minded), but I get the importance of owning my own data, and I like the idea of having my own little space on the Web.