For the second time in a few weeks, reader MartyNL has got me thinking about what I'm doing and reflecting on whether I should be doing it differently. First of all, he made me realise that I really needed to get back into the darkroom - it's why I started this blog after all. Then, in an innocent-enough comment to my previous post, he basically called me a "landscape" photographer.
Obviously, that's not a bad word but it's not really how I see myself. I now realise that it's how other people will see me and for good reason. Looking at the photographs I've posted here over the last couple of years, a large majority of them have been landscape-type images.
When I decided to leave digital behind it was with the idea of pursuing a style of photography that's all about light and shade and shapes. I'd tramped over hills and fields and beaches long enough with a variety of cameras covering 35mm to 6x9 and wanted to head off in a new direction. I'd gone through the various stages of being obsessed with cameras, then lenses, then film, then developer, then printing paper, then toning. As I've mentioned before, my last film outfit consisted of a battered Mamiya Press with 65mm, 90mm and 150mm lenses. My normal film was HP5 developed in Perceptol 1+3. I was completely happy with that and just got on with the image-making.
Then the digital bug infected me and I had to start thinking all over again about equipment, finally ending up with a Nikon D700 which, in my opinion, is the digital equivalent of a Nikon F: a hugely capable, reliable and even iconic camera.
The problem I have now is that my return to film largely coincided with the launch of this blog. I don't know about other photography bloggers but that's had a significant impact on my photography. If you want to reach out to readers there are generally two boxes that have to be ticked: post as regularly as you can and write a lot about equipment and materials.
Writing regularly means finding stuff to write about. Had I pursued the light, shade and shape photography then, by virtue of the fact that it's harder for me to come up with good images like that, I would have had less material to work with. Landscapes and seascapes are easier to come by where I live and that's why I've tended to take so many of them.
And then there's the equipment side of things. I've become a little too obsessed with cameras and materials again and that can partly be traced back to the fact that a new bit of gear sometimes makes a good subject for a post or three. Omar Ozenir, through his excellent darkroom articles, and David M (he likes to fly under the radar) with his very informative large format related posts - some of which I've yet to publish - have taken some of the pressure off. But I still feel that I'm essentially taking photographs to feed a hungry blog rather than to satisfy my creative urges.
Take my increasing use of 35mm. As mentioned earlier, I was a medium format photographer before becoming fully pixelated. Although I love 35mm, it's mainly for convenience and blog-feeding reasons that I've been using it almost exclusively recently. Meanwhile, I have a great Rolleiflex SL66E outfit sitting idle in a darkroom cupboard. And a Speed Graphic that, in my hands, has exposed no more than about a dozen or so sheets of film in two years.
So I think I'm going to make a big effort to concentrate on my light, shade and shape photography. And I think I'll do it in the company of the Rolleiflex SL66E. I'm not sure how successful I'll be and it may well transpire that I need to continue shooting landscapes so that I have to something to write about. My stock of film has almost run out but this time I'm going to buy just 120 to force my hand, so to speak.
It's a style of photography that's illustrated by the photographs on this page, all of which I've published on the blog in the past. Essentially, I think of it as similar to what Ralph Gibson does but without the people. I remember 18 months ago when Phil Rogers introduced me to Mr Gibson's work - it immediately struck a chord. That's why I've been a trifle obsessive about him on the blog.
I believe this approach will make me think more about my photography and certainly force me to adopt a more creative approach. As David M said in a recent comment, it's about getting away from "representational photography". There's a difference between a fine photograph and a fine art photograph and that's the gap I want to bridge - if that doesn't sound too pretentious. :)