My earliest recollections of taking photos was in 1964 during a family holiday to the western US. Dad, Mom, younger brother and me loaded in the station wagon (estate car) and headed from Cleveland, Ohio to St. Louis, Missouri where we picked up Route 66 and headed west. All of my monochrome images are still in an album in my folks house, but I recall very well images in the St. Louis Botanical Gardens, and National Parks including the Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon, Bryce Canyon, the Rocky Mountains and Continental divide, and cultural and travel photos in Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, Salt Lake City, and Denver. While there were of course the obligatory family snaps here and there, even then people didn’t figure prominently into my photography.
I graduated to more complex cameras inheriting my Dad’s hand me down rangefinder Pentax as I came into secondary school. My photographic interests were still slanted heavily toward nature and outdoor activities. It was when I came to university and got my first Minolta SLR that my interest and passion for photography really blossomed. My first trip to the UK in 1972 are full of photos of landscapes, birds, and cathedrals. It quite honestly hadn’t occurred to me that I have been doing what I do for a very long time and my preferred subject matter has remained remarkably constant through these may years. There were again the odds and ends photos of people but usually engaged in some sort of outdoor activity or sport.
The mid-80’s saw my Minolta kit stolen and I migrated for a time to compact cameras, film and then digital until 2003 when I got my first Canon DSLR, though to be fair I also got an analogue SLR at the same time. Once immersed in the wonders and flexibility of the DLSR for the subjects I prefer I have found I have left the world of film far behind.
Examples circa 2003 -2004
The following few years between 2005 and 2013 were consumed with work and high level golf competition. That combined with the ease of using the mobile phone camera and a compact digital saw the DSLR kit coming out a bit less frequently. Nevertheless, similar themes recurred and there was added interest in action sports when those opportunities were available. Travel and nature photography were also mainstays in those years.
Examples 2011- 2013
It was coming to Scotland in 2014 that really reawakened my photographic passions as I found the scenery and the light so extraordinary. My senses were overwhelmed and no matter where I looked I couldn’t not be making photographs again. Upgrades to my Canon kit brought me more capability and also made me realise I had so much more to learn. Post processing was something I had rarely done since my university darkroom days. Joining a camera club, having work critiqued, studying and most importantly taking photographs, lots of them and exploring the capabilities of my camera and my eye took the quality of my work to new levels quickly. Learning the power and necessity of post-processing produced another quantum leap. I was beginning to produce very good quality work, but what to do with it? And this is where the decision to pursue the MA Photography was taken.
It has been interesting to look back over my many years of photography and to see how much more continuity in subject matter there has been than I realised. It is evidence the camera looks both ways and does reveal both the diversity and consistency in my interests. Also noticeable is the general absence of people except when they are engaged in some activity. It has also been interesting to see how the quality of my work has changed. Looking back now at the earlier work which was almost exclusively just what came out of camera, I see all sorts of minor imperfections that could so easily have been corrected with post-processing. I see another exponential leap in the work of this past year of studying for this MA. It comes from a combination of more skills, more thoughtfulness, more familiarity with where I am working, and I am sure (though reluctant to admit) from reading theory and looking at the work of others. I can’t describe exactly how the last bits are affecting my work, but it seems to be operating at a subconscious level in the realm of tacit knowledge as described by Polanyi in The Tacit Dimension (1966/2009).
Polanyi, M. (1966). The Tacit Dimension (2009th ed.). Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.