I always used to believe that photography was an art form, and I suppose I still
accept that it can be, but the irony of becoming a better photographer is that one
realises that most of it is just formulaic nonsense. Images that I once dreamt of
capturing now seem contrived and uninteresting. The very fact that as cameras become
ever more efficient, more people take photographs that would not so long ago have
been thought of as outstanding, suggests that the majority of photography is not
art but simply the proficient use of equipment. The world is absolutely awash with
superb photographs of the natural world, perfect in every detail and mostly taken
using either elaborate set-ups and/or habituated wildlife. Indeed many ‘wildlife
photographers’ are doing little more than working their way through a list of standard
shots, even to the extent of buying opportunities on other photographers sets. It’s
not my thing, but I have no quarrel with those who choose to follow this path. Sadly
however I do believe that this entire process has seriously devalued wildlife photography
to the point where it has little point.
The camera’s greatest asset is its immediacy. It can capture a fleeting moment for
ever. It is a news tool, recording for posterity actual events, situations, people
or moments in history. A painting on the other hand, while it can illustrate those
same subjects does so entirely at the whim of the artist. A photograph records exactly
what is in front of it by repeatable mechanical means. An artist may paint the same
scene, but it will be his opinion and skill that ends up on the canvas, not the inevitable
product of this paint and that brush.
So what has that got to do with this journal? Well, now that I know enough to understand
all of this, I find it very hard to maintain my interest in wildlife photography.
What is the point in making a photograph that hundreds if not thousands of other
people have already done as well if not better? Consequently my photographic output
has been negligible this year. In fact I have come to the conclusion that the true
worth of anybody’s photography can only really be appreciated by taking the whole
body of their work into account. A single amazing photograph is probably going to
be the product of more luck than judgement. The whole catalogue will illustrate one
persons view of the world that they move in and a collection of average images can
often tell a better story than a collection of immaculately crafted set pieces. The
photographer will tell his or her story most simply and effectively by the choices
they make when deciding to press the shutter. Over the long haul the photographer’s
work says more about him or her than he is saying about the subject.
I have put a few up here that I like from the lean months. None of them are that
good, but they do add another brick to the wall. As the world around me is becoming
more urban, less wildlife friendly and less to my liking, my photography is set to
diversify. Somebody else will have to decide when I am gone whether I was wasting
my time. Whatever conclusion they may come to I don’t care now and I certainly won’t
be bothered then, so let’s just see what happens shall we? And for better or worse,
this is my world as I see it now.