When I was young I wanted to be Clint Eastwood. I don’t just mean I liked him and his seemingly never-ending stream of heroic roles. No, I wanted to be him. I’ve wanted to be a few people during my 53 years on this crazy ball of rock. Archie Gemmill, Francis Rossi and one of the Thunderbird pilots – I can’t remember which one. Even in my early thirties when I got into photography, there were a few people I wanted to be – who wouldn’t want to be Vincent Munier? Good looking, charismatic and sickeningly talented. Je ne suis pas digne.
Everyone reading this has an impact on the planet and its limited resources. Most of western society eats farmed meat, drives polluting cars and owns an unprecedented range of consumer goods. The device you’re using to read this (and the one I’m using to write it), the light on your office desk and the cup of tea sat next to you – they all use energy. Multiply all of this (and lots more) by a global population spiralling towards 9 billion and it’s easy to see why as a species, we have a problem. A big problem.
Management. That word really gets me going. Land managers of all creeds are obsessed with it. Managing nature – that is selectively controlling which bits we want and which bits we don’t – has become an industry; careers and reputations are built on it. ‘Management’ is of course, a polite euphemism for ‘control’ and there are endless organisations that have at their heart, a constitutional objective to control; to exercise their dominion over nature.
I read with great interest Laurie Campbell’s recent piece in Outdoor Photography magazine. In it Laurie describes the familiar dilemma of revealing to other photographers often hard-won sites of what can be, sensitive subjects. And Laurie is right, to share or not to share, is a dilemma.
One of the traits that makes us human is the ability to plan – to look into the future and envisage the consequences of our actions. We’re obsessed with planning. Businesses plan cash flow and marketing strategy; charities plan fundraising and volunteer recruitment; even nature reserves have management plans dictating which species should live and those that shouldn’t. And as individuals, in an effort to make the best use of our time and resources, many of us plan to the nth degree. As a society we don’t like to leave anything to chance. We strive to ensure wherever possible, positive and sustainable outcomes. It all makes sense but with all this detailed planning going on, you’d think that we’d have a pretty comprehensive plan in place for our future as a species. Not so. This is the elephant in the room, the plan that no one wants to make.
I can’t remember the last time that I was so excited about my photography. It’s a bit weird; I’m like a kid in a sweetshop. It’s not that I’m jetting off to the Pantanal or the Canadian Rockies. It’s not that National Geographic is sending me to Antarctica – quite the opposite in fact: I’m staying in Scotland, a tiny country with a Big Story (that’s the exciting bit).
Years ago I met a Swiss photographer who was passionate about the Serengeti ecosystem. He told me to always make sure I was “doing something” for a place, species or issue about which I was passionate. Ever since that chance meeting, I’ve done exactly that, or at least tried to.
Is it me or is there a constant stream of new photography competitions cropping up? Hardly a week goes by these days when I don’t receive yet another invitation to part with some hard-earned and spend a laborious day (or two) preparing and uploading images and (unnecessarily) writing captions, because let’s be clear, entering photography competitions is no quick job.
So why bother?
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.
I have to apologise: I might have brought you here using a misleading header for this post. I’m sorry. I do want to talk about Help for Heroes, but environmental and social heroes rather than the military type. For some, there is no more worthy an act than sacrificing your safety for your country. For me, it is just as important to celebrate the selflessness of those who give their time and expertise to make our communities – and therefore the world – better. Continue reading “Help for Heroes”