I pen the words in this collection of little stories for a few reasons. I find it relaxing to sit and write a few thoughts is one part. I like to share the little knowledge that I have gathered through the years with people who would like to read my ramblings, not only on photography, but also the few other bits and bobs that I have to offer. And finally, I like to share a little of myself with people. This post is firmly placed in the last of these categories. I think that as a viewer of an artists work you get insight into who they are and what they are about. This blog post, and maybe some more to follow in this series will aim to build on my current body of work and give you a little insight into how I got to where I am today in photography. Lets just say its all about me, yeah... Just the way I like it.
Thats not entirely true, just so we are clear...
I have mentioned in a few previous posts some of the history that I have in photography. I didnt have the ability to display some of the fruits of my early forays into the art of photography at that stage, but I have found some of my old negs (others were destroyed in a fire), and some prints, so I thought that I would write a post on the work that I used to do, and introduce some of the pieces as well.
I will try and do this in chronological order. The first set of images is from Oman.
I think that the first time I really started to develop a passion for photography was when I was overseas with my Dad. We lived in Oman in the Persian Gulf for 2 years, and he took a lot of photos. I wanted to do the same, so I used to borrow his camera. As he was a school teacher we also had access to the darkroom in his school, so its also the time that I learnt to process film and print enlargements.
As you can see, this is sort of the start of something the resembles street photography. Its more on the travel side of things, dont get me wrong, but I always have a hard time separating the street from the travel on some of the online pages. I think that its just the fact that some peoples 'normal' streets are more what I would expect from my normal travels. Its a very interesting perceptual issue that I am sure that others face sometimes as well. I was in Oman from 1992 to 1994, and would have been about 13-14 when I took these images. I also would have processed the film myself. These have been scanned in and processed using my normal workflow in Silver FX Pro2.
Year 10 (1994)
I returned from Oman in 1994 to go back to school in Melbourne. It was at this time that I really started to find my feet in photography. I had a great teacher at Princess Hill Secondary college in North Carlton. Phillip Cannizzo was an amazing artist in his own right. A sculptor and photographer who had commissioned work in a lot of different places. His passion was something that really rubbed off on me. We just got along I think. It was more of a friendship that a teacher student relationship, and I really should track Phillip down and catch up with him now I am back into photography.
I started this period with a few street shots
Walking on Air
I was about 15 when I shot these, and they left me hungry... When you got hungry in Phillips class you got handed a medium format TLR, a light meter, some black curtains, and some old drama stage lights. You push back the desks in the photography room, close the blinds, and set up a studio.
Medium format studio work would be what I fell in love with for the main part in High School. I was even lucky enough that my Dad had a Mamiya C200 TLR and I was able to have my own camera rather than using schools. I still have it, and still use it a little, but I have a truck load of film in the freezer and am about to sit down in the coming weeks and draw up some concepts for some studio work. I miss it. These next images were shot in the same year.
So that was the start of it, things started to get serious from here.
Year 11 (1995)
I did some really interesting things in year 11, but I am missing some of the negs I think. I do have print but they are on 12 x 16 paper and my scanner isnt large enough for that. I will give you a quick run down on what I did. The images were of a friend sitting in and around a cardboard box. When I first printed the negs they were a little dull and boring. So I had an idea.
You remember that clear acetate paper that you used to be able to use to photocopy things for those old school overhead projectors. Well, I took my negs to the photocopy room, and copied them onto some of that stuff, cut them into strips and printed off of them. So you think that 3200iso film has grain, nothing compared to these things. Below are some shots of the images, best that I can do.
During this time I also got into Inline Skating. So it was a natural thing for me to start shooting some images of the guys skating as well. This is probably where I really started to have a desire to shoot on the street. I dont think that it was conscious at that point though, as these images were all of my friends at the time. They were doing what they loved and I was doing the same I guess.
So that was year 11. I had turrned 17, and was about to start my final year of High School.
Year 12 (1996)
I stepped it up again in year 12 I think. I completed a majority of my final year work in the studio, in fact everything that was presented in my folio was studio based. I started with a series on clowns for my first semester project. The high contrast images that I took at the time seem to remind me of the processing results that I get with the black and white that I shoot now. I guess this is where I learnt that way of seeing.
The first of these images was actually placed on display at the National Gallery of Victoria for the Top CATs exhibition for the 1996 graduate year. At the time there was no other photographic images displayed. The rest of the work on display was from students from all over the state, but mainly consisted of paintings.
After shooting the Clows series for the first semester I decided that I wanted to shoot some nudes. This was a fairly interesting process for a 17 year old High Scool student. Trying to find models in my peers at high school was a difficult task.I guess that I was lucky in the fact that I had a body of work to back up my request already, I was well known in the school for my photography, and I went to a school where this was likely not as unusual as in some other schools.
Above you can see the work that I was so immersed in for 3 years of my formative years. I think that some of what I have said is likely a little cheesy, but I hope that it doesnt come across like that. This body of work is something that is dear to me, and I am extremely happy that I have been able to locate some of the negs, and prints, so that I have been able to share something with you all about how I have come to be the artist that I am now.
I think in some ways I havent even met the standards of what I achieved in High School since returning to photography again. And for me, I have got a lot out of writing this post. I think that the main thing that I am walking away with from the process of pulling these images together, and then writing a brief synopsis and timeline of the years that they were made is two fold:
1. A desire to get back into the studio.I love taking images in the street, and I think that the ability to do this is something that has likely developed in me with a little more experience and life lessons. But I think that the black canvas that is the studio is something that I will do more of.
2. An ability to look at work that I did before the internet was what it is today. In 1996 there was internet, but there wasnt really photo sharing. There was hardly a decent digital camera. There were no likes in Facebook, and no hashtags in Twitter and Instagram. These images I took for me, myself, and I. I took them because I loved the process of taking what I was able to see in my mind and making it real on a piece of paper. I loved the time that this took, and the way that it allowed me to escape from everything else that was going on in the world and concentrate on the things that I enjoyed the most. I think that the social media boom is great for developing relationships with the right people, and it is proving to be a very strong tool for me to have informative and intellectual discussions with a wide range of very interesting artists. But these discussions are not happening in the public space. They are not akin to the likes and favs of the rest of the social spear, and they are therefore useful and educational. I think that what I am trying to say here is quite simple. Pick from the options below and let me know which one you think you fall into.
Option A) If you take a photo and post it on Facebook. That said photo gets 1500 'likes' in 2 days. It gets shared 50 times and does the rounds where it gets other likes as well. This whole process might take a week. After this week, are people still going to be talking about your photo? No, probably not, they will have moved onto the next one. Granted, it might be another one of yours, but then you get into this maze of trying to make sure that the next is just as 'liked' as the last, so you post up images that are not as good as some others, as they are just the best you have at that moment, but you cant let people forget about you or they might 'like' some other persons photo instead.
Option B) If you take a photo that you love. Im not saying like here. I am saying love. You want to marry this thing. You make a print from that photo. You spend hours in post production making sure everything is right. Or better still, you shoot the image on film, and spend hours in the darkroom making a real print (you can see why I am pro darkroom printing here). You then spend more time framing the print, making it nice and safe behind glass. You take the print, you mount it on the wall in your house. Right in a central place in your room. A place where you will see it everyday of the week. Every time you look at this print that you have pained and loved over for such a long period of time, for as long as it hangs on your wall (much longer than a week) you will smile.
I know which option I am trying to operate under.