The Road Before Us


These days everybody is a photographer. But the obvious split between taking snaps with a camera phone, or making Photographs with a camera had me wondering about a question that has been asked over and over. “How do I get better at photography, and can I offer some advice?” My response would be, go out and constantly work at it, by making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, teaching yourself and sticking with it through the months and years. Essentially there is no magic solution to getting better, you just have to go out and put in the work. When I started I had lots of questions and I answered most of them myself. Sure, the vast majority of what I learned I did by myself out in one corner of the world or another. I read a lot too. And looked at a lot of photography books. But mostly I was out there with my cameras thinking and exposing.

But there is a trap one can fall into when one reaches a certain point. They can look back at the road they have walked and forget how difficult it was at times, especially in the beginning. One can also easily forget that what might work for you may not work for someone else. For some of us, the best way we learn is out there on our own doing trial and error, but for others the best way they learn is through collaboration or mentoring. Perhaps not everyone has the innate confidence to go out there and fail, perhaps they need to have someone help them learn that confidence. Perhaps for them going out on their own to learn is not the goal, perhaps it is to learn in the company of others.  At the same time, memory is a dangerous thing to rely on too much and our memory of our journey from amateur to accomplished is likely glossed over in parts and skewed in others. If you have been making photographs for years and years do you really think you remember what it was like to be a complete beginner? I doubt I do, I would tend to doubt you do as well. But we think we do, and that is where it gets tricky.

We should also remember that we often take different paths through this realm and our destinations are often different as well. This can be tricky to keep in mind, I know, I have to remind myself of this constantly as well.


For Instance whenever I travel to a different city I tend to find one (or two) features of that city and really hone in on them. For example, during my first visit to Paris I spent a lot of time finding every angle of the Eiffel Tower that I could. I find that having something like this to focus on helps me keep an eye out for peculiar angles I might have otherwise missed. Part of that is the process of photographing something you are so intent upon. For example, if my goal is to find as many different perspectives on this building as I can discover, I’ll walk extra lengths around it, or I’ll make sure to keep its location vaguely on my radar so that I’ll glance down every alley that leads off in that direction just in case there is an unexpected view. The goal is not to produce a collection of images of this building, but rather give me something in an unfamiliar city to pay attention to and become familiar with. And when you are a bit adrift in a strange town, visually overwhelmed with trying to figure out how to sort it all out photographically, I find that this technique can help give me solid creative ground to start to work from.


Anyway, just sharing some thoughts.

Spiral Scratch

Damn. Pete Shelley gone. Woke up this morning to Rain and Wind and this very sad news. The Buzzcocks were and are a big part and firm favourite of mine, and I was fortunate to be able to meet with Pete a few times and tell him so.


Pete used to call at our flat in the early 80s at Old Lansdowne Road Didsbury Manchester. One of the girls I shared with was Carole Morley and Pete had a crush on her. Whisked her off to Paris at the drop of a hat. I remember him so well as if it was yesterday. A real Northern Gent. I lost touch through the years and this image is the only one I could find in my archives. I am often amazed that not more get lost through moving house, county, city, country. I remember when I first arrived in Manchester and Homosapien was one of my favourite records. I also recall that XL1 had some sort of floppy disk to use with a Sinclair ZX. The original release was packaged with a computer program which featured lyrics and graphics which displayed in time with the music. Non amazing now, but was a big thing then. Travel on well punk pioneer and ace Mancunian songsmith.


R.I.P., Pete.

A Pretty Picture


I chose this image not because it is really all that remarkable. At least not in a unique way. It is just a beautiful image. Sometimes the large amount of photography I produce conflicts with the small amount I decide to share that I pass over some of the images of mine I feel are more generic but still pretty. I let these collect digital dust in favour of the images I see as more unique and that isn’t always fair. Or rather another way to think about it is the reason to pick an image for sharing doesn’t always have to be based on creative uniqueness or even technical accomplishment. Sometimes it is worth sharing something because it is a nice reflection of a beautiful place and time.



The truth – I have always been afraid. It is a painful feeling, fear. It sits deep in the bottom part of your stomach and hurts. But it is the energy of survival. I have always been afraid of fear and at the same time grateful for it–afraid of its pain and grateful that because of the pain I can take steps to eradicate it by overcoming that which frightens me.

One who is afraid reacts to it as any animal. If one is a rabbit, one runs into one’s hole and hides. If one is a turtle one pulls back into one’s shell. We have all known people who react to their fear in this fashion. Some call them shy. Some, wrongfully, call them cowards.

But some people react to fear as a wolf reacts. We get angry. It is easier to be angry than to be afraid. It is less painful. The frightened wolf attacks whatever frightens him. But it is fear, nevertheless.


Fear has been given to us so that we may recognise that which endangers us in this complex world. To avoid injury of one kind or another we need to recognise the danger, whatever it may be. Fear permits us to ask ourselves: what are we afraid of and to evaluate it. It gives us an opportunity to say to ourselves, we don’t need to be afraid of this person or that situation. It is something we can handle. It gives us an opportunity to understand that the other person may be as afraid of us as we are afraid of them. It gives us a chance to deal with our fear.


Fear is also the stuff of courage. We cannot be brave without fear. One who faces unreasonable danger is not courageous unless that person has first felt fear and overcome it. He is only foolish. I know of no persons who are brave who are not first afraid. So, at last, fear is our friend. Listen to it. It speaks loudly to us. It is not to be ignored. It is to be cherished as our protective partner.

In the end, fear is a gift.


Veiled Longings


I believe we all have a longing that one day we would like to live somewhere, have a house somewhere.

I believe that’s a longing for something inside; there is a place inside where that serenity exists.

Safe and sound with yourself. It is something I long for and I am working towards it in the most practical way possible.


I looked back and glimpsed the outline of a boy
His life of sorrows now collapsing into joy.


A Moment


So often you head out into the world as a photographer knowing what you are looking for. I knew what I wanted to find on this trip recently. It was going to be beautiful autumn colours, ancient trees and maybe a lake or two. But as is often the case, it is the unexpected scenes you find along the way that can be the most enjoyable. You don’t step out the door thinking that what you want to find is a quiet abandoned table and chairs under the soft light of twilight with the leaves blowing in the wind and the  birds chirping. These things are more difficult to expect and anticipate, and it is probably wise to not try. Rather it is better to just be open to seeing them in a glimpse as you pass by on a country lane and having the presence of mind to turn around and go back. Life is a collection of the big moments and the small, the grand scenes and the quiet ones, so it is therefore no surprise that photographing one’s life is also comprised of the same components.