The eyes of a photographer

Thank you to those who have participated in the “I Love” Project – please write a blog post about what you love, and let me know about it so I can link you on the list and share your story with everyone.

Anyway… This is part of my assignment…

Before studying photography at university, I was just a kid with a camera. I didn’t bother reading about how cameras worked, finding out about different kinds of cameras, or how to compose a photograph. I just took pictures purely for the sake of capturing moments for memories. To me, a good photograph was something in focus, something crisp and smooth, and something without blur (my favourite band… no, sorry, getting off topic).

For a while I thought that every single photograph I took had to be in focus, had to be clear, concise, precise; completely flawless.

Then I found out about Man Ray.

Marquise Casati was compelling. It was sinister, and from the moment I saw it, I knew there was something about it. This was it for me. No longer did I want to be a kid who took pictures. I wanted to be someone who made photographs. Every time I hear of Man Ray, I remember the first photograph of his that I saw – Marquise Casati, and despite how much it gave me nightmares – really inspired me to be daring. To step out of my comfort zone.

Man Ray wasn’t a photographer whose work I scrutinised to no end. Not every photograph dragged me in the same way Marquise Casati did. But his nude photography made me a bit more appreciative of that kind of work, and it amazed me how he could capture such purity and vitality, innocence and youth.

It has never been my object to record my dreams, just to realize them.
Man Ray, O Magazine, September 2002

Prior to studying photography, I decided to read into photography on my own, positive I would enjoy it. I did, but in the beginning, actually studying it was dull. The technical aspects were things I fussed over, and that became difficult. It was difficult simply to get over the fact that once taken, there is no delete. It encouraged me to go back to my old school roots, listen to more vinyl, keep embracing the Beatles, ignore everyone who thought I was weird for liking cassette tapes, fall asleep to Pink Floyd. I suppose that was part of the photo-making. I had to do a bit of thinking and compose things, and make the photograph rather than just take it. Seeing the world through a lens made me appreciate a lot of things, and I was able to take photos I had never imagined myself taking before. Going through the tedious process of developing film soon took up most of my afternoons. The hardest thing was time. Being a girl who is so well managed with her time, I found it hard to make priorities in photography. It was difficult to make decisions about what to photograph, what to print, how to print. It was hard to fit that kind of time into my busy schedule. However, I realised that I still loved photography enough to pursue it. I went on.

I found a sneaky little trick to save time. I attempted to use the same enlarger and noted down the exposure time when I printed my contact sheet so that when I printed my photographs, I could save another round of finding the right exposure time again.

I faced several challenges, such as getting ideas for what to photograph. I was thinking too far into it. I was really just thinking about certain things, times and places to photograph. I began to realise that you can really make a good photograph with anything. I was too sucked in by the typical edited digital photography of today, that I found it hard to overlook, and was continually stuck at the divide between that and the amazing work of other photographers.

For instance, Imogen Cunningham’s botanicals inspired me. I realised that the “good” photographs of roses that I had taken in the past could not compare to her amazing stills of sweet, innocent flowers. I’ve always enjoyed taking photographs of roses. Tina Modotti’s Roses gave that feeling of mystery and ethereality. I could never capture more than just the rose itself – they were just that – photographs of roses. I did try, but for such a detailed flower, it was difficult. There were several shots on my rolls of film that came up so dull on the negatives. It’s a challenge I still face. I still cannot make a photograph with a flower look interesting. One day, I hope to pull up something as deep as Cunningham’s work.

I’m at that stage where I know you don’t need a good camera to take good photographs. If one can truly understand that and not be so arrogant to think, “I have a 20 megapixel camera, I take better photos than you”, then they have my respect.

There’s still a long way to go.

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