Monday, 17 November 2008

My Camera Never Lies

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in the works canteen and sipping my regular morning coffee; it was probably about 8am and I would have been going through my morning routine of staring into the void and wishing I were back in bed.

After a few minutes I’m joined by the Old Fogies – one of whom, B, used to be on my team back when I had some power in this business (sadly my tendency to stroke white cats and chuckle under my breath got me demoted). B had recently been on holiday to Spain and was promising Pictures on the next day.
And so we got talking about cameras – I was saying how I had lots of film cameras lying around my house that I didn’t think I would ever use again now the Digital Revolution had come, we both agreed that Digital was still slower to react than film meaning that you missed action shots – and I bemoaned the fact that I still wanted a decent digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex – in the good old days this meant you saw what the camera saw and that you could have a choice of different attachable lenses – these days with digital viewfinders it’s probably an inaccurate description)

Of course these days we’re rapidly moving towards possession of a mobile phone that can play your music, take your photo, book your train tickets and offer you free Nectar points for every trip you take to the moon – and increasingly the quality of these pictures is perfectly good – but for those of us who care you still can’t beat a proper camera that you look through the lens of.


So we got talking about flash diffusion and apertures and exposures and I realised with a shock how much I’d missed photography during recent years. I grew up in a house with a father who was a semi-professional photographer and my bedroom was also a part time darkroom where clock radios and duvet covers were prone to ruination through spilt chemicals. I actually left school with the vague hope of being a professional photographer myself – but sadly failed in this endeavour for three reasons: firstly there’s no money in photography, secondly there’s very few jobs in it and most importantly I wasn’t actually that great.
But returning swiftly to the conversation B mentioned that he had spent £500 on an all singing-all dancing Nikon SLR and had taken said camera on holiday – photos were promised the next day. I was interested to see how his shots would compare with mine: taken on a £40 digital which you have to hold at arms length and can’t use in direct sunlight because you can’t see the screen.
So he brought in the photos and the ladies on his team got to look first – and they started looking at them wrong…
One thing that always annoys me with prints is when people look at them wrong. Some people take your shots and put them down one by one on the table when they’ve looked at them, thus reversing the correct order: this is wrong and should be outlawed. I hate it when people do this – if you have to put them down put them down face down so they stay in the correct order – or else put them to the back until you get to the start…
Finally they came to me…and the thing was that the photos were nothing more than average: perfectly acceptable holiday snaps but with no artistic eye or focus – B might just as well have saved his money and bought a cheap disposable film camera for £10…he would have had the same results.
And the moral of the story, if there is one, is that technology will only help you so much. In a world where we no longer have a machine for everything but we have everything in one machine its important to remember that the people behind the machine will always be more important.

I should mention that the photos accompanying this story have no connection other than that they were taken by me on a variety of trips to London during the last 12 months. The first two have been edited to change them to black and white, the last one was cropped slightly – the others are all as taken. I hope you enjoyed them







14 comments:

Lydia said...

Such an interesting post! First, I really did enjoy the photos and think they are all quite striking. Of note is the one of the modern bridge from underneath (what is its name?), the carnival ride, and the chap who looks like Charlie Chaplin.
It's so ironic to read your musings, because they mirror what I was thinking the past days since posting photos of the Oregon desert that I took in years past with my Pentax SLR. And I realized that I miss it. Then yesterday morning a pit bull charged my husband in our driveway (belongs to the teen boy next door, long story) and he grabbed the digital and took about seven shots ...... and not one of them showed the dog with his mouth open barking, all because the camera is slower than the eye. Very frustrating!
I well remember working around those who didn't understand my love for my white cat or my chuckling.....

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Hi Lydia - the bridge shown from underneath (and also previously with the tree in the top of the shot) is the Millenium Bridge - it was supposed to open in time for the opening of the Tate Modern Art Gallery - to which it leads. However structural design problems meant it moved too much and people were sick. It's now been fixed at great public expense!

On a positive side of digital photography - its only a matter of time until the speed catches up

gnomespeak said...

I enjoyed the first photo and the carnival ride, best. The sun setting as it's coming through the ferris wheel is gorgeous and a little sad. I've always wanted a good digital SLR. My dad has an old Canon and my stepdad has a Nikon and when I was a kid I took classes and never got back into it but I loved it.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Hi Gnomespeak - thanks for the visit. The first shot is of Liverpool Street Station in central London. I like it because it reminds me of an LS Lowry painting. The wheel is the Millennium Wheel - which at the time was the biggest ferris style wheel and offers panoramic views of London (or so i'm told: i'm too much of a cheapskate to use it!)

YogaforCynics said...

In our consumerist society, the attitude tends to be that expensive gear is the most important thing for any pursuit. Thus, people who are out of shape spend thousands of dollars for bicycles that are a few pounds lighter than the ones they could get for hundreds. Ultimately, the reason those incredibly expensive bikes exist is so that riders in the Tour de France can shave a few milliseconds off of their time. For your typical person who bikes on the weekend, the difference is as negligible as that between cameras for your unskilled photographer friend.

Your photos, on the other hand, are great. Thanks for sharing them.

pohanginapete said...

...its important to remember that the people behind the machine will always be more important.

That's so true — particularly for photography. While good gear is important for some kinds of photography, it's never sufficient.

Great to see some of your photos. The black and white treatment suits them well, and I like the compositions — you have a good eye, so I'm surprised you think you "[weren't] actually that great".

raccoonlover1963 said...

Hi Pixie. Great shots. I'm with you, I hate it when people turn the pictures around every which way while looking at them and tossing them down in whatever order, even backwards. Leave them the way you found them!
Take care and have a great week.
Lisa

The Clandestine Samurai said...

Yes, that is absolutely true. It is always the innovation and efficiency of the person that creates the true art, not the instrument. Kind of like people who think spending thousands and thousands on a guitar will make them a better artist than the person at the same level playing a guitar that cost hundreds. I mean, people at the beginner's level.

And those reasons you gave for not pursuing photography were not very valid at all. The art and craft that you want to pursue is only as lively as you make it. I'm sure you could've found a way to market yourself in that area. Plus it doesn't necessarily have to be about the money, you could've done photography alongside some other job.

You still can.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Yoga For Cynics - yes: technology will only do so mucn - some people buy these things as a status symbol though as well!

Pete - if you take a look at the standard of photos in amateur competitions its pretty high, which is why i rate myself where i do: ie better than joe public but not good enough to earn money. Having said that Anton Corbjin (whose work i actually quite like) has made a career out of grainy B&W out of focus shots so who knows...

Lisa - i had a feeling you would understand...!

Samurai - you've hit on another reason why i never went professional - art should never be about the money...but i took some photos for a freinds wedding recently and although they were pleased with them i just know that i will be forever kicking myself for the shots that got away :)

Michael said...

I had a good time with this post. Trying to connect the photos to the text and then just relaxing and letting the words and the pictures come.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

michael - glad you enjoyed

Buddha said...

I always look at pictures with my soul rather than my eyes. I like to get into the picture and let it resonate in me emotions, memories, feelings. I don't know why I liked the B&W pictures more than the color ones. For some reason the B&W ones speak to me more clearly. ...Maybe I was a dog in a past life...
I enjoyed every one of them and I thank you for sharing.

Honour said...

beautiful shots :)

another way to express your creativity I see ...

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

honour - thanks. Glad you enjoyed