Someone reminded me yesterday that I was about to enter my 25th year as a full time photographer. I asked him to not repeat that information as it made me feel old. “Dale,” he said, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but…”
The fact remains that I made my first photograph for a community newspaper in 1987, but I was moonlighting then. The editor would give me a roll of Ilford HP5 film and send me out to take a picture of some flower that had appeared in Mrs. Nextdoor’s garden—the first of the season in this county. Or, perhaps the assignment might be the first golfer to tee off that spring. Yes, even Mr. Soandso who felled the big buck deer during the autumn hunt warranted a picture in the community weekly.
Each time I came back with the roll of exposed film, my compensation was the time spent being tutored in the darkroom. Little did I care the editor was teaching me how to process and print so he wouldn’t have to. I loved the smell of hypo baths, and there was something magical about watching a print appear on what was a blank sheet of white paper swishing back and forth in the red tray.
Those were exciting times when fotography was phun.
Over the next 20 years photography remained fun and the excitement was always there. There was travel around the planet, there were all the great people I met, there were all the great friends and mentors within the industry. The industry was very good to me and my family.
As photography morphed from film to pixels, for some reason much of the fun seemed to evaporate as quickly as E6 chemistry. Were we now spending more time in front of a computer and less time in the field? Were we becoming more stuck on equipment than the knowledge of how to use it? Have we become afraid of experimenting and failure? Have we become too reliant on software to correct mediocrity in the field? Has the internet and the quick capacity to gain information and knowledge removed the mystery and fun of the learning process?
I am not sure of the answers, but what I do know is that we create our own destinies as individual photographers. There were two events in the last calendar quarter of 2013 that got me thinking about this whole notion of how to get the fun back into picture taking—the old fashioned way.
The first involved a challenge from Photo Life art director Guy Langevin. We were debating the merits of our favourite beverages; why doesn’t matter, and to be honest I can’t remember why. But we decided to have a shoot off where we would each make one image of that product and see who created the best picture. If I recall correctly, the rules were rather simple: no props could be purchased and the shoot had to be completed in one Saturday afternoon. The challenge was issued, and I must have won as Guy never showed me his results. But the point is this: it was a major amount of fun and the image was being created for no reason other than to have fun. It reminded me of my beginnings where I would have to problem solve using whatever I could scrounge around the home. Is my picture any good? Well, from a commercial product shot perspective—no; but that doesn’t matter.
The second event was in late November when a friend and I went to the great seaside town of Yarmouth, N.S. This was only about a one-hour drive from where I started my career with that community newspaper. We had a great afternoon getting our feet wet on a salt marsh, and an even better evening making pictures at Cape Forchu Lightstation. As I was sitting with my back to the wind, shielding my camera from salt spray, I realized I had not given any consideration the scene that was appearing in my viewfinder. As I pondered this strange feeling that had overcome me, I realized this location was my birthplace as a landscape photographer, and here I was making picture for the pure enjoyment and love of craft. There was no agenda, no art-director requirements, no editorial considerations—it was just me, my friend, our cameras and the brisk Bay of Fundy breezes. How refreshing, just making photos for fun (they still haven’t been processed and I doubt they ever will be).
The point of this entry is to remind us why most of us got involved with photography in the first place. Fotography can be phun, we need only allow it to be.
If you would like to see a challenge section where we create a theme and shoot for the pure fun of it, please respond with a comment.