I think the time has come. I feel a bit of honesty is due. They say that the first shoots of recovery from a self-inflicted malaise, is an admission of that malaise. For the last 20 years or so I’ve been kidding myself that I’m a photographer. And now, I realise that I’ve been living a lie; it’s time to own up. For as long as I can remember I’ve been feigning interest in all manner of photographic dialogue but in truth, I care not a hoot.
In the last few weeks by way of a quirky set of circumstances, I’ve spent time with some of the most insightful nature writers and media commentators of our time. It’s not that I’m unfamiliar with the subject matter but listening and then listening again to well-researched, well-reasoned and well-articulated arguments for why the wild world needs our time and energy, it’s difficult not to be infused with a fresh perspective, a renewed vigour, a resolve to be a better communicator rather than simply a better photographer.
So at last I can own up, relieve myself of a pigeonhole I didn’t solicit; or perhaps I did? No matter, I feel cleansed, free of the constipation brought about by a perceived need to conform to the rituals of my chosen tribe. I am officially no longer a photographer.
Now before the vultures amongst you start circling over my hard-earned gear, I’m not done with it just yet: I am still convinced of what photography can do. And what it can do is make us think, make us feel. I want my audience, however big or small, to think and to feel more; I don’t want them to simply graze on meaningless photographic fodder. It’s a tricky act to pull off but if I, if we, don’t try, then in my view, whatever talent we might have developed for capturing compelling images, is wasted.
I’ve not always thought this way. Like lots of my peer group I’ve spent much of the last two decades charging around the northern hemisphere shooting away at random subject matter. More recently however, things have changed and one place has been gnawing away at me, calling me if you will. It’s a place I’ve never really got to grips with, not properly: a place of untold stories, unfinished business. It’s a place I care about and know about; a place I call home. Scotland. Why didn’t I think of it before? Why didn’t I realise the story-telling potential on my own back doorstep?
My colleague Niall Benvie, an insightful writer, and another self-confessed over-thinker, recently wrote:
“Photography provides an incredible platform for self-expression, for framing and sharing your worldview.”
He’s right and although my worldview might have shrunk somewhat, I’m more determined than ever to frame it and in doing so, put my photography to better use.
Here’s another sobering (but very true) observation, this time from environmental commentator, George Monbiot:
“We live as if trapped inside a Sunday supplement: obsessed with fame, fashion and the three dreary staples of middle class conversation: recipes, renovations and resorts. Anything but the topics that demand our attention”.
Personally, I don’t think the colour of our lenses or the niceties of post-production are worthy of our attention but the health of our natural world surely is.