I’ve always wanted to be more creative. My drawing ability reached its peak when I was about 7, nothing I drew was particularly good, but it looked like a 7 year old had done it. My drawings still look like a 7 year old did them, which is a bit embarrassing for a 23 year old. I’ve never been able to sing, when I auditioned for a part in the school production of Around the World in Eighty Days, the pained expression on my music teacher’s face made me feel so guilty I stopped. My dancing makes most Dads look like they should audition for the Bolshoi and the less said about my musical abilities the better.
I’d like to think that my writing isn’t bad though, and I’ve always been proud of it, but in many ways, I think photography might be what I’m best at. I have no real technical skill, but I can frame a shot, (look out for tomorrow’s Sci-Fi Saturday for an example). I’ve always felt this has stood me in good stead in my writing because I can frame a scene in my mind as I write. Today’s post though isn’t about writing at all though, but photography. More specifically, it’s about a camera.
My loving and very patient girlfriend bought me an amazing present a few months ago that I’ve been waiting until after exams to build: the Lomography Konstruktor build your own 35mm SLR camera kit. Yesterday I sat down and made it. It took me around 2 hours and I filmed the whole thing as a time lapse. I couldn’t be happier with the result, (of the camera at least), and I’m looking forward to seeing the photos themselves whenever I fill the roll of film and get it developed.
Although my first camera was film, like most people of my generation, I’ve pretty much always been a digital only photographer. More than this, again like most in my generation, the majority of my photos are taken on a smartphone. I do have a micro four thirds camera which I love, but day-to-day, my iPhone does all my photographic heavy lifting. This is fantastic in almost all ways; my phone is always with me, the camera is just a swipe or a tap away and it is remarkably good quality. Basically, it is instant and good enough. When I move up to my proper camera, the quality jumps up a notch, but the instantaneous nature remains. I can see the result of any shot almost as soon as I take it. If it is out of focus or under exposed, I can make a correction and try again. Even if I don’t quite get this right at the time, with editing tools available at my finger tips, I can improve things after the fact. There are problems with this though.
With everything being instant, it is very easy to not spend the necessary time thinking about a shot before taking it. In the past, with the expense of getting prints, it was necessary to make sure what you were committing to film was just what you wanted. Now, given digital cameras essentially allow for an infinite amount of photos to be taken, you don’t need to take so much care. I think this is a shame.
I have over 16000 photos in my library. They form a record of my life that I would be crushed if I lost. But I hardly ever look at them. There is just too much noise, (hopefully not in the pictures themselves). Also, a lot of them are distinctly average. Many probably aren’t even as good as that. This is in many ways a good allegory for writing, both mine and others, (okay, so this post might be a little bit about writing). It is easy to commit thoughts to paper now, or, more pertinently, the binary memory of whatever digital device I’m carrying at the time. This is great, it means I don’t forget ideas when I’m on the go and makes editing easy, but, like with the photography, I think something can be lost too. Why take the time to make sure every word and phrase are constructed just as they should be when it is so trivial to go back and change it later? How do you avoid the temptation to skip the editing process entirely when it is so easy to share your thoughts with the world as soon as they have spilled out of your brain, through your typing fingers and onto the screen? Instant and good enough.
Thoughtless and mundane might be another way of putting it. I never hand write anything, I hate my handwriting, (I can’t read it a lot of the time), and I love my iPad Pro, it suits me, so I’m certainly not advocating for a return to the written word being just that: written. What I do think though, is just because the world has become digital, doesn’t mean the good practices of the analogue world should be forgotten.
And this is why I’m looking forward to playing with my Konstruktor camera. I’ll have to think about each shot carefully, (film is even more expensive now than it used to be thanks to Mr Supply and Mrs Demand). I’ll have to be patient before seeing the results, so I’ll get to think about what they might mean. When I do get the film developed, I’m sure I’ll want to scan the best pictures so I can add them to my digital library and when I do, I’ll be taking the time to look at them again properly, remembering the moment. I’ll be getting more from those 30 photos than I might from the next 500 I take digitally and it is this care and thought I want to carry forward into my writing.
LOVE the idea of making your own camera. What an original present. When I was a teenager through to my thirties, the excitement of waiting for my photos to be delivered through the letterbox from Bonusprint was enormous. Sometimes there was disappointment – a photo you thought had worked was slightly out of focus or someone had their eyes closed. But overall, there was enormous pleasure from both having a reminder of a fond memory of an event/place along with seeing if experiments with composition/focus etc had worked. In my 20’s, I was then very methodical at putting photos into photo albums. These have not stood the test of time that well. The glue holding each plastic sleeve in has dried out so many of them have become loose. So on balance, the ease of having the photos digital is greater. I do look at my digital photos far more often than my prints. One day, I will get up into the loft and select the best photos that Grandad took and then scan them to share with the family. He took thousands of photos. Many were out of focus. But he had the ability to capture folks being relaxed. He took so many that folks just acted normal rather than posed. He took so many that you just ignored him with his camera rather than looking into it. So that means there are some real gems which are totally natural.