Talking To Trees

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Did you ever encounter someone with a really striking face. I’m not talking striking in the stereotypically beautiful way, but striking in that it has a lot of character. Maybe it is heavily scored by time or life, maybe it is scarred, maybe it is prominent structure… it made you stop and wonder about the story of the person behind the face. It also often makes you want to create a portrait of them. Anyway, I sometimes feel that way about trees.

Callac Cafe

Rainy Day Afternoon

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One of the challenges a lot of photographers face these days is dealing with expectations they place on themselves that pertains to their audience or peers. These expectations come in a variety of formats but one thing that I think always gives them away is when a photographer is talking about where they are struggling and uses the word “should” as opposed to saying something like “I want to…”.

What should we post to social media? The image I like, or the image I think will be popular. Social media has built a vast and valuable network, but as we network more and more, and experience less and less isolation in our creative lives, it becomes harder and harder to hold onto our individual approaches to doing our work. Influences and expectations from external sources compete with our own internal desires. And it is often hard to even realise when you are changing up your creative approach, or even thinking about your photography, based on those external influences… adopting “this is how I should be doing things” over “this is how I want to do things”.

Can one get away from these pressures and influences? Unlikely. But I think there are ways to be more aware of them and manage them.

The first is just paying attention to how you think and talk about your own work, be it internally or with others. If you are critiquing yourself based on comparisons to other photography, this is a red flag. Watch the other language you use and ask yourself where it comes from. Again, the word “Should” in particular is one to note. When you find yourself using it, ask yourself just why should you do this thing differently? Is it because you want to, or because something else is making you feel like you ought to. Identifying this sort of thing is a great first step.

Another, may be to remember that you are your first and most important audience. If you are going to play to an audience, make that primary audience yourself first and everyone else secondary. Make photography for you, then share it with others.

Third is give yourself some space. Create a buffer zone between you and social media. It is surprising what a break can do for you. Spend that time making photos. Another way is don’t share work immediately. Sit on it. I often sit on images for months. What this does for me is that when an image does show up it is because it jumped out to me and spoke to me as when browsing my libraries. In other words, by waiting it makes it much easier for my motivations for posting a particular image to be because I felt something personally with that image, not because I was responding to external pressure to put something on social media for the rewards of likes, shares, engagement, etc. Of all the things I do, I think this delay in posting is one of the more helpful in creating a bit of space between me and the social media audience. It gives me time to process my feelings on my imagery and develop that relationship, so by the time the image goes up, everything that happens on the internet is just icing on the cake.

I also think it is a good practice to sit down and think about what kind of photographer you want to be, how you want to make images, what makes you happy. List these things out and then follow them as close as you can. Just some thoughts scribbled down on a rainy day afternoon.

Simple Pleassures

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Over the past couple of years, my appreciation for the simplicity with which the world is rendered by black and white film has grown. I have exposed many a roll of b&w over the years, but more often I find myself appreciating how much quieter black and white is. Sure, the scenes can still be dramatic, but there can sometimes be a brashness to colour that I don’t seem to find as much in black and white film. It makes for a simpler, quieter world…. at least how I use it. And I guess that is the chicken meeting the egg. Is the world really that much softer of personality in black and white, or do I see and record such a world when I am in a black and white film mentality? Am I finding what I seek, or seeking what I find?

There is something to be said about how a film or a lens or a camera influences and feeds how you think, look and photograph. The technical qualities of a specific camera, or roll of black and white film aside, it is important to be aware of the mental process that is engaged when using a certain piece of equipment.

Is the world simpler and quieter in black and white, or do I make it thus because I was in a mood to go looking for it and chose the right equipment to pursue that? Yes and yes and sometimes no.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/