Days like last weekend when I took a walk along the lake on a sunny day in Geneva with my camera, keeps photography fresh for me; it awakens the simple pleasure of it. Perhaps it is like yoga for someone else or relaxation meditation to another. Sometimes I just need to get away from the structure of school and enjoy the medium, by just getting into the flow.
I still contemplate little details. Maybe more so, because by relaxing the thoughts also flow. For example, I observe people’s response to me. Each country is different in this way, and it differs by season.
In Geneva during summer, when people are happy and warm, with friends and family or sunbathing on their own, they don’t seem to notice a person around with a camera. I can float around pretending to be invisible and playing my own private game of “I spy” or “hunt and seek” looking for moments – pieces of humanity.
I try to be respectful. If there is a very private moment between two people of course I walk away. I also, by example, won’t photograph nude sunbathing that is traditionally found in some European sunny water spots such as by the lake at Bain des Paquis in Geneva either. My thinking overall is simply to go by the golden rule, “do unto others….”.
Now in winter, it is a different game. People can be grumpy and sensitive, maybe because it can get persistently grey and dark in these parts. I get the occasional intense stare just walking by with my camera. What goes on in my mind is, “yes, I know, winter sucks”. So, I get it and I try to not make someone’s day worse by my presence, thinking “there are an infinite number of pictures to be taken, do I really need to take this one?” I take measure of what it is worth to me and I listen to my intuition.
I would have a different set of rules if I were photographing a demonstration or event of public concern. I would take the necessary pictures that communicate the event in play. By example, it was important that people knew about the blatant inhumane abuses taking place during the civil rights movement in America. One would have to be daring in this case, because it was important that people learned of the human dimension of this time.
Clearly there is occasion where the rules of photojournalism are different than that of a gentle stroll around lovely Geneva. Sadly, people can become immune to their surroundings and of human suffering. Photojournalism can bring these issues to light.
I have been thinking about who I want to be as a photographer ever since MA Course Leader, Paul Lowe asked us in a lecture – “What do you want to be known for?/What do you want to represent as a photojournalist?” I see this self-awareness coming to me naturally. I imagine some day that it will just be obvious. I will differentiate a certain niche if I let myself be drawn towards what compels me, feels natural that I take part in, and somehow takes forward my own mix of personal experiences and knowledge of the world.
So far that has been the case. I photograph what is interesting or fun for me and I try not to question my motivation too much. I will need a larger body of work though for my own niche to present itself to me.
I will produce a few personal projects going forward in addition to what is expected of me in school. I learn loads during tutorial and from professor feedback, each time I take on an assignment. But, it is equally important for me to step away from time to time and take the brakes off, have total creative freedom and no time pressure for my own creative outlets. It also helps me to find my way as a photographer. I choose projects that are manageable. They give me the chance to compartmentalize my more practical challenges, like mastering the camera technically, exploring the use of lighting for affect, trying out different genres, etc.; failing in some things so that I may achieve in others. Basically, I am slowly discovering the landscape of my strengths and weaknesses.
There is no shortage of what I want to photograph. I see myself nurturing many projects for years; marinating them as I please, exhibiting from time to time and publishing as it feels appropriate and when they are received well enough. I would also like to publish a few photo books over time. As the hardcopy book becomes obsolete by publication of e-versions, they may also become more special as a tangible object of creativity.
On my personal list for now:
Exploring my maternal family roots in Scotland: Compose photojournalistic and archival family photography into a stills, audio and video montage, documenting my own personal journey through Scotland. It would be great fun to spend three months or more simply traveling on my own and documenting where this trip takes me. This one requires travel and time and so it is more of wishful thinking at this point. Maybe some day.
Opera. Illustrate an opera singer training for a performance including video, photography and voice overlay in a multimedia montage. We will start shooting within the next two weeks.
Dylexia: Explore the personal perceptions, problem solving skills and life philosophies of people with dyslexia. I have skype interviewed a few people with dyslexia who are willing to participate.