An inspiring interview with Ryan Muirhead, one of my favourite artists.
He puts into words how I feel 90% of the time. For some time, I’ve been feeling the need to delve back into film photography. I can completely relate to a lot of the things he mentions.
Photography has never been about having the best camera, or trying to out do “competitors”. In the last couple of years, I have started to gather expensive equipment I’ve seen necessary for work purposes but I’m starting to step back again and remember it’s always been about art and how I want to see and share my take on what’s going on around me. That wasn’t obvious at the beginning when it was just something I enjoyed as a hobby but it’s evermore clear now.
I’ve had moments where I’ve taken half hearted photos of things that don’t necessarily interest me, like the Peace Bridge at 7am, because I’ve felt like I HAD to. As if images like that are expected of me because I’m a “photographer” and in certain instances, have been told it would be great for tourists to buy my work. But none of that interests me. I won’t take any old picture for financial gain. My heart has to be in it, it has to be something I have seen that interests me or my energy is being focused in places I don’t want it to go.
As far as the business side of photography goes, I love shooting weddings. I love connecting with people who appreciate and like what I do and there’s nothing that makes me happier than knowing a couple love their images as much as I do. I love being able to have the freedom to produce images of the day by way of a story. For me, that’s what photography is all about. I don’t want to lie, I don’t want my clients to lie, faking every element of what is a beautiful day for them and their loved ones. I couldn’t be happier knowing I’m able to make a go of having a career out of what was only ever a hobby for me to begin with. I never once imagined I would be able to make others happy with my images.
Photography is so personal to me and I want it to be just as personal to those who I work for or take images of. Like Ryan says, I want them to be able to see themselves in the images I produce. I don’t want throw them into a studio and add a gimmicky prop for a “fun shoot”. I need honesty and personality to shine through above all else.
I’m just excited to be able to be back at a place where I am getting comfortable again with how and what I shoot after spending a couple of years worrying about how good my photos might be compared to others, if my technique is right, if my equipment is the best I can afford, if I should be shooting this way instead of that etc etc etc..
I’m at the start of an equipment upheaval which is scary in itself but I think is detrimental to how I produce my images. It will take time, and it won’t be perfect right away but I know even the camera I am using affects how I feel when I’m shooting and in turn, how those images turn out. When I shoot a wedding, I want to be as much a part of it as possible. I don’t want to stick out as the photographer, although this is somewhat inevitable. I feel my equipment at the minute is holding me back that little bit as I tend to stick out with a big camera and big lenses. How I shoot calls for discretion and my whole ethos is for the attention to be on my clients and for them to be comfortable around me. Holding a big camera can be very intimidating for most, so for that part, switching to a more compact system which is more natural to me seems the most obvious way to go. Everyone expects the photographer to have a big camera when shots are being set up, but for those moments when I want to blend in, I feel my camera now can sometimes affect me getting the shots I want, to show the day how it was intended. That’s not to say I am not happy with the images I currently produce, but it’s all necessary to me being more comfortable with myself which can only be mirrored by those who I work with.
I’ve always felt most comfortable shooting with film. My favourite camera is the OM1 and I’ve only ever shot on it a handful of times. I intend or returning more and more to film, where possible. I have a collection of cameras that have to se the light of day which is a such a shame. They need taken off their shelves. They’re beautiful to look at but they’re serving no purpose going unused.
It’s not a digital versus film debate and I’m certainly not turning my back on it. I love digital in all it’s pliable glory. It has given me the freedom to create images that aren’t always specifically photographs. I can use photoshop to create blends or add bits and pieces when I’m feeling a little creative and just a plain photograph won’t do in that moment, but film offers me that excitement by slowing things down and really getting back to basics. It’s what I loved about photography in the first place. The slower process of creating something you’ve really put thought into. With digital, everything is too “right now”. As with most things these days. I can post 10 plus photos a day if I wanted to and it’s amazing that I have the ability to do that. But it also affects how I shoot. It’s almost TOO quick and for the most part, I’m not always proud of the images I shoot when done in this way. There’s very little time to put a whole lot of heart into it using this process.
I know it excites me to no end being able to shoot something, edit it, and have it ready to see within an hour. Right now, I need to slow things down. I need to shoot when I want to shoot. I need to get back to that feeling of knowing I have put thought into what I am shooting, that how I am shooting is a reflection on how I am feeling. I need to use that to create. I need to be creative. I feel like I’m not giving it my all and have definitely fallen victim at times to relying on being able to fix something later because digital is so versatile. Film will bring me right back down to earth and I’m hoping this is going to help me start again in some ways, to rebuild myself how I wanted to shoot in the first place. I lost sight somewhat of that over the last few years and as much as digital has it’s advantages to help creativity , it’s also stumped me and left me more than a little lazy. To the point where I think too much about something, I end up doing nothing at all and resort to easier methods to produce SOMETHING. It can be overwhelming sometimes when I have so much at my fingertips in terms of how many shots I can take, content on particular subjects on the internet, articles I want to read, tutorials on techniques I want to perfect, the need to feel like I’m not shying away and losing people’s interest by throwing up any image I take on Facebook.
Sometimes, I think these wee magic boxes can work wonders when it’s really not the case. It has to be me behind the images and not what I think people expect or trying to keep up with others. That doesn’t concern me. I want my work from now on to be mine. And in some ways, yours. So much of what I do is personal to just me. I love receiving compliments on my work and I’m so grateful to those who take the time to look at my images and send support my way. Sometimes though, particular images might not have any of my heart behind them as much as others might think it’s a nice picture.
This is what needs to change for me. I have to own it. I have to look back on images and relate to them. There has to be a part of me visible when I glance back at what I’ve shot. Be it knowing I had a crap week and created something darker or was feeling particularly happy that day and loved the way the sunlight hit the corner of a room. I’ve toyed with the idea of taking most of my images down from social media because I see more of what I thought I had to be doing, than what I wanted to do. It feels like a lie. I can be difficult sometimes because I have this desire to have full creative control but feel like I’m limited to what I want to be doing. No one but me is stopping that process. No one is expecting anything from me. I have the freedom to be able to create whatever I want. I’ve spent too much time thinking my energy should be pointed in a plethora of directions that aren’t right for me. It doesn’t make me happy. It stunts my growth, not just a photographer, but in general. I can have the tendency to slump very easily when things overwhelm me but I need to learn to use that in photography as my output.
I can spend countless hours browsing wonderful photography on the many platforms now available. There’s nothing I love more than staring at beautiful images but in the last few months, this has come to a stand still. I waste too much time staring and not enough time creating my own. Especially when I might come across an image similar to something I had in mind. It stops me from creating. Like it would be seen as an imitation of someone else’s work so I end up doing nothing instead.
This is where film is going to help bring me right back round to the start. Most of the images I am happiest and most proud of have been shot on film. It’s not a large number by any means but that in itself says something to me. I very quickly took on digital when I had the chance because it was exciting and I can be very impatient. Film started becoming something that was a chore when I, and everyone else, wanted immediate results. I don’t intend on replacing digital completely. I know I need it for certain work so no one need worry that I will turn up to a shoot with a dodgy camera from the 60’s with a winder that tends to stick and rip apart the film (Yes.. that has happened on more personal shoots than I’d like to let on). It’s something I intend on doing for more personal work that will slow me down and kickstart a new, or rather, the old way of considering photography and where I want to take myself.Holding a film camera gives me that joy and inspiring feeling that I’m going to create something I will be happy with. Even if the film does tear or stick and I end up with nothing, I’ll have put time, effort and heart into every frame. Over time, I hope to be able to approach digital in a whole new way. Maybe not a way that is evident in my photos, but for me personally, to feel more at ease with myself as a photographer.
It’s not all about using film over digital. I want it to be the catalyst in approaching photography in a whole new way. New to me compared to the last couple of years at least. It’s already started to affect how much work I show and when. I feel it will help me better myself as a photographer. Question why I am doing what I am doing and if I am happy how I am doing it. I can be certain it will help me approach shoots with more confidence to create the results I was going for.
I’m holding back on sharing images I have taken which is a new experience. I’m working on a couple of things I am taking my time with. I will still probably share instant images of Lily because I can’t resist that face of hers but for most things, I’m holding back to evaluate and make sure it’s what I want to be doing. It’s been exhausting the last while worrying that I am not doing enough, sharing enough, posting enough etc etc. This has only further held me back from being creative. I’m leaving no room for new thoughts or inspiration when I’m worried about what I think I need to be doing. I feel like I’m always worried and holding back for the wrong reasons and it’s about time that changed. I’d rather be broke and proud than raking in jobs and unhappy with work that isn’t 100% from me.
I realise this is more of a self help post than anything but if you have read and still have a few minutes to spare, Ryan has articulated similar points in the link below better than I ever could.