I think the only rule a photographer should follow is taking lots of pictures. Well, I was so afraid of turning my favorite hobby into a job, I didn’t even realize how I just gave it all up. I kept my precious hobby for myself. Damn it! Why didn’t anyone tell me that was stupid?! Of course, a lot of things changed when I moved to Sweden seven years ago. In St:Petersburg, Russia, I was surrounded by plenty of friends photographers. So no matter how much I wept, I had to find new friends in this new environment, but I was afraid of not getting there! Well, I’m still afraid I guess :) There’s this phrase that helps me to sometimes overcome my hesitations – “Courage is not the absence of fear but a decision of going forward in spite of fear”. (There are different sorts of this particular quote, but this is how I remember it). I like to think that I’m brave. So… I’d rather pee my pants but at least I’d be doing that for photography.
One of my old friends often told me that I had to just take a camera in my hands and photograph. He was good at being afraid and doing things at the same time. Practice is your best skill level indicator! You might end up with bad photos first time, maybe even next time, but then you’ll know what are your weak points. You won’t know if you don’t try.
Courage is not the absence of fear but a decision of going forward in spite of fear
For example, how do you know if you understand light? (You don’t need any tools here, the day light is free of charge – go outside and test it out). I remember when I started to photograph with analogue cameras (I have even sold all my lenses for the digital camera), I couldn’t figure it out how am I gonna work without a light meter. Besides, my first experience using film was a disaster. It was a long time ago but somehow it hurt me real bad, so I decided I was not good at it! It seemed easier to never try it again than to accept that I could actually learn :) And so I googled some manuals, tested light with digital camera and decided I was ready to destroy some films. Honestly, there is nothing better than to invent your own bicycle. People would say, “Why would you do that? There are plenty of articles on the internet!”. Well, actually when you are trying to learn from zero, you understand so much more in practice. It’s like you’d read dozens of articles about the same thing but in different words. Film cameras are quite unique, especially old ones. The practice of “guessing” light and its understanding released me from my fear of measuring the light wrong. Most of the times when I do need to be precise I check myself with a light meter app, but I “calibrate” it anyways because I know my camera better. My point is, don’t worry if you seem to take bad photographs (?if they are at all bad) – it grows on you with time and soon you will be giving advice. So, practice, once again…
When it’s just “poop”
Years ago, in the beginning of my photo-path, I was photographing absolutely everything! I had a huge interest in street photography. I often took my Canon 450D with me. There were tons of new folders on my computer with thousands of pictures, none of these folders ended with “_iphone” (sort of an indicator I have that the folder contains only mobile photos). I posted almost every single photograph online, I was so brave! haha.
I had lots of fans too! I used to have this thing – photographing without looking through the viewfinder, shooting from the hip. Many of my favorite street photographs were made like this. But right now, no matter how much I shoot everything looks like crap, with some exceptions. Sure, there are so many beautiful photographs out there, everything has already been photographed. Shooting from the hip or not – feels like I’ve been there, I have outgrown myself – even if I sort my photographs it comes down to a couple of crappy pics. At that point, I developed an interest in creating series, projects, I needed something else. Well, as a result – I started to create a lesser crap, …I guess. So, we need to add more meaning to our photography, right?
If you want to photograph but lacking inspiration then perhaps you need to find an idea of what to photograph first in order to give this bulb over your head a chance.
Audience always changes, or I’d say, it grows and develops with you. You shouldn’t be afraid that you “won’t be understood” or “laughed at”, because everyone has a certain level of photography which results a certain audience. We all are in the process of some sort of self-development. Taking a step forward in your photography you attract visitors that “stand” on the same level with you. There will always be beginners. And I keep remembering my first photos that I thought couldn’t be any better.
Two years ago I moved my site to ordpress because I wanted my portfolio to be displayed in a proper way. After a couple of weeks I couldn’t care less about it. I lost myself and the whole meaning in having a website. I thought, if I don’t do photography regularly, why bother. The only platform I used was Instagram and my phone was my camera. The most interesting thing – people kind of liked my pictures. And suddenly it got to me – damn! what the hell am I doing, that’s not me! My photography archive became a list of twelve folders (one for each month) and every folder name ended with “_iphone”. Even if I had a good shot in these folders what I did is I posted favorite ones on Instagram, there I had my “collection”. Sure, there are great mobile photographers, not talking about them. It’s just, I gave up on my photography, analogue or digital. Moreover, I still have some film negatives that haven’t been edited since 2013! Boooo! In some way, Instagram became my secure blanket to avoid doing more (or do what I actually want to do for that matter). When I started using Instagram I was totally against posting non-mobile pictures there. But, like any other platform, Instagram was evolving very fast. I’m not even talking about what a smart phone can do nowadays. And so I made another Instagram account for my “works”.
For a very long time I have been convincing myself and everyone else that I don’t want to work as a photographer. I was afraid my favorite hobby wouldn’t be as favorite. Now what? work is work, and my hobby is vanishing into thin air, I have no time for it! Meanwhile I was helping people in their photo beginnings (but who am I kidding, it’s my life essence). Why couldn’t I persuade myself, why losing so much these years. Well, I must confess, recently I’ve got more folders on my computer that are not named “from my phone”. Huh!
My personal renaissance
Of course, I take photos from time to time. If you don’t photograph much it doesn’t mean you don’t self-develop. Not at all. You change, right? Your taste changes with you. If photography is important for you, you’ll be analyzing works of others when you look at them. It’s inevitable. Somewhere deep inside, on your fingertips, there’s this feeling of yours – what color to use when editing you photos, even if you don’t like the result you are searching for something of your own, you wish to find the only right tone for your frames. You are developing your skill without noticing.
Now I understand that I can’t take it anymore, I’m trying to get my photography together. I miss editing negatives, creating a perfect curve of RGB. I miss the sound of Mamiya’s shutter. You might laugh, but it sounds like a heartbeat, I’m not kidding! One day I’ll show it to you :)
Think about what you photograph and why! Someday you might get disappointed that you didn’t do more for your hobby. But don’t lie to yourself, if it is a real hobby it should be a regular action, not a random shoot once a year – make it your priority! ikipedia says that hobby is a pursuit. So, ask yourself how well you are pursuing it. I have asked – I am not a photographer, I don’t even photograph! I should probably
hit my head against the wall go and hug my camera! because I’ve missed it…