I could not be doing what I do now, doing what I love, without digital technology.
You see, I am entirely self-taught, so when I decided to make family portraiture what I did every day I needed to practice and practice hard. In my youth, without a camera to call my own, but slightly obsessed with capturing little fragments of time, I’d always have a disposable camera to hand. You’d snap away indiscriminately, hoping to record a sense of what was in front of you. But you would never know until you got the film back whether you’d managed to chance upon any keepers.
Technically, I had no idea what I was doing. You didn’t need to. You pointed, you shot, you wound on the film. With a plastic disposable camera, there was only one button. I wasn’t thinking about technical achievement. I was thinking, “I want to remember that. I hope it comes out.”
And quite often it didn’t. It was too dark. Too blurry. Or way too bright. It didn’t match what I remembered. It disappointed me.
But I got better. The theatre work I used to do started to inform how I would compose a frame, almost like the staging of scene in a play. What would I place where for it to feel, to look right to me? What would I include, and sometimes more importantly, what would I leave outside of the frame?
Time passes and I try different things in my life. But I always come back to a story. To ways of telling it, to themes and atmosphere. It will always come down to capturing connection, affection and love.
Making the decision to become a photographer was as easy as it was difficult. Easy because I knew I loved it. Easy because whilst I always loved to create things I have never been able to draw, or paint, or sculpt. Fat fingers and little dexterity meant botched jobs and constant frustration. But a camera fits these hands. It feels comfortable to me. It’s how I choose to retell the world that I see.
Becoming a photographer was also difficult. It’s certainly not cheap. Plus it took time and a great deal of effort to get myself to the point where I felt comfortable saying, “Hello, I’m a photographer.” Being in business by yourself and for yourself is liberating but comes with enormous responsibility too.
But without digital technology I could not have managed to teach myself through trial and error. Mostly because of the cost of buying and developing film, but also because of the time it would have taken. With a digital camera you can see instantly where you have gone wrong – you can tweak it and try again. One click doesn’t commit you to one printed frame. You can try again and try often. You can sit in one spot and experiment with a dizzying combination of settings to achieve just the look you want. You can be confident that you have the shot in your hands that started in your head. You can move on quickly to the next idea.
And so now I’ve got to the stage where I want to tackle film again. I’ll always want to improve my photography, whatever medium I shoot in, but I have a level of confidence now with the images I create to begin to try something different. To learn to see a little differently.
I was lucky enough to win a scholarship to attend the workshop. The place I won originally was on the Vancouver workshop. But I couldn’t go. Then Boston was offered, because it was nearer and might be easier on the pennies, but sadly not easy enough. Devastated is an understatement.
My gut is grand and wise, and I had a gut-feeling that I should be on this course. It was time for me to slow down with photography, to consider more, to wait. I think that is what film photography will teach me. I knew Mr Canlas was the chap to teach it. It was so sad to have it possible, but just a little unreachable.
Until a few months later and it was announced on twitter that FIND was coming to the UK. And not just any old part of the UK, but Surrey. And tomorrow. And Jonathan was gracious enough to let me attend in my own backyard.
Good things most certainly come to those who wait. Great things come when people are kind, and friends help you get there.
So I have a new mechanical friend, which doesn’t require batteries.
It won’t tell me instantly what I’ve captured. I will have to wait. I will have to be patient.
I will have to do things a little differently.
Here’s to slowing down and thinking. Here’s to finding another way to tell stories with photographs.
I’ll let you know how I get on.