I’ve been asked this question on numerous occasions, and the answer I give never feels like it tells the whole story. Mostly because it doesn’t, but it doesn’t seem polite to give a thirty minute monologue when all most people want is a quick response.
So since you have made the obvious mistake of continuing to read, I’m gonna give you the monologue version.
Begin at the beginning,
I’m gonna start you off with a little bit of backstory.
I was raised in a family who do their best to avoid being photographed, in fact we took pride out of avoiding a camera where possible, something that didn’t really change as I went through those awkward teenage years.
Now that’s out of the way. The real start of this story is when I began dating my wife. Her family were people that took lots of photos, and it became quickly apparent that avoiding being in front of a camera lens was going to be much trickier. Well you know the old saying, if you can’t beat them join them. It’s much harder to be photographed if you’re the one taking the photograph.
What I started to realise was that I actually liked photography.
I liked the craft of creating and producing an image that was unique to me.
And so I began to delve deeper.
The first steps on the path,
I started buying photography magazines to see what could be gleaned from their pages that I could utilise with my little point and shoot camera. At this early stage it was simple things like the rule of thirds, and basic post production stuff. All the stuff about taking control of the camera was intriguing to me, but I was unable to put into practice due the limits of the equipment I was using.
Eventually, the desire to take more control over the image being produced in the camera became too much and I upgraded to a camera that granted me that control, though it still had it’s limits.
I joyfully took to experimenting with this new camera, testing what it was, and wasn’t capable of doing, and just enjoying this next level of freedom that I now had in creating images.
However I quickly found that i had reached the limits of what I could achieve with this camera and it wasn’t long before I was ready to take the leap and bought my first DSLR.
I was now beginning to find that I was reaching the limits of what the photography magazines could teach me. Content was starting to become repetitive. I found that I already knew a lot of what they were telling me when it came down to the technical aspects of photography and was getting much more enjoyment and value from the interviews.
I felt a little bit lost at this point. I wanted to know where did I sit on the skill tree of photography. I was confident that I wasn’t a beginner, but was also aware I was a long way from mastery.
The part where I start to find my way,
In order to help me find my place I found and joined my local camera club. I entered the competitons here as a means of discovering where my skill level was at. Most of the photographs entered were either landscapes or macro shots of bugs. Neither of which really appealed to me.
I had at some point stumbled upon Chase Jarvis, from whom I learnt:
“Don’t be better, be different.”
I couldn’t compete with the quality of the landscape and macro photographs that were produced by the other members of the club. So I didn’t try. I took a different tack and shot still life using things that I had to hand around the house.
However I found that there’s only so many times you can take photographs of playing cards and watches before you get bored. So I dipped my toe into portraiture, where I quickly hit a snag. Someone willing to let me photograph them. Or more accurately asking someone.
I should point I was, and still am if i’m honest, incredibly shy. I certainly couldn’t bring myself to ask someone if I could take their picture. That left me with one option,
I decided to photograph myself because I could take my time, I didn’t have to worry about someone else seeing my crappy looking lighting setups and I could relax and have fun with it. I was really pleased with a lot of what I produced in this time. Without realising it I had taken another step on the path.
After the birth of my son and a particularly difficult year at the camera club I decided to leave.
I didn’t particularly care for the competitions any more. I felt I was putting a lot of work into an image in the little time I had available to me and it was being dismissed all too quickly. Outside of the competitions there was little else that I felt would help progress my skills. I had realised that what was being offered by the club was no longer a good fit for me. It was time to move on.
Running with the Wolfes
After a brief bit of practising with a few willing members of my family. I discovered a studio local to me – Wolfe Cottage. This was perfect as I still had a young child and didn’t want to travel too far at this time.
My first shoot was with a model who went under the moniker KRG.
And I was terrified.
I had never shot in a studio before and had barely shot someone who I didn’t know at least a little. I was shaking so bad I still consider it a minor miracle that I managed to get any images in focus.
KRG was wonderful. She really did her best to put me at ease and despite my nerves I had a great time. I was really pleased with the images I had managed to capture.
I began to regularly attend studio days and club nights at Wolfe Cottage. I struck up a good friendship with Andrew, the studio owner, and with a little bit of encouragement and guidance I began to experiment with lighting for myself. I have always wanted to find a way to create an image that no-one else can. To that end I began to style my shoots, bringing dresses and outfits for the model to wear. Something that I still do.
Finding the way back,
Whilst I call myself a photographer, I am a hobbyist. I do this for fun, for the enjoyment that comes from being creative.
The primary reason for this blog, as I may have mentioned in a previous post, is to find my way back onto that creative path. I recently took a break for the birth of my daughter and now I work around the new responsibilities this brings.
This break has allowed me take a step back and take a look at over I’ve created the last few years and given me the opportunity to think about where I might want to go next.
So while I’m not sure where this path leads, but I think I’m beginning to get my feet back onto it and right now that’s all that matters.