This year I’ve shot a tiny amount compared to 2016. This is because I came back to London in December and spent most of the early part of the year looking for a job, once I’d found one all of my concentration went into settling in and pouring all my creativity into the challenges it set me. So now in August, all I have to show for my year is a short, but successful project at Wimbledon Dogs and a few sporadic street photo’s taken over the summer months.
However, I could have shot many times since being back in London and I haven't and I am starting to think about what my photography means to me, how my time in New York affected my approach to my work and what am I trying to achieve with this?
There have recently been a few articles online talking about how the modern photography student can no longer perfect their technical and aesthetical skills and achieve success in their course. They need to have a concept, embody lots of meaning and have a 'thing' to now stand out of the thousands of graduates that pour into the field every year. Older photographers note that when they go to student shows the meaning is put before the execution. In street photography, there is a similar vein of truth with hundreds of thousands of people out there shooting. The togs who seem to gain popularity are the ones with a strong theme and novel approach to execution. Often the photos themselves are middling to average. I can think of at least two popular street photographers who have had successful shows with work that is interesting in its concept but with immature results.
So what does this have to do with me? Well, I feel really quite stuck in a rut of wanting to shoot in bright sunshine where I can position myself where people can walk into the light and I can shoot them against the shadows. It's limiting in the days I can shoot and it also makes me wonder what I'm trying to achieve. With so few days available to shoot, London being so sprawling and varied in its people my choice of subject is random at best. I've considered only visiting one area and concentrating on that but so far I've not found anywhere that gives me the right conditions and the right people and anyway, who am I looking for anyway?
A couple of years ago I wrote an angry post about how I didn't want to play the game that street photographers are forced into playing these days, chasing followers, being active in the community to elevate your status, becoming a teacher to fund your lifestyle, writing endless blog posts on the top tips for new street photographers and all the other typical ways people feed their habit. All I wanted to do is shoot but even now purely shooting doesn't feel enough. After spending every day walking the streets of New York, having enough time to properly explore the areas I wanted, find the people I was looking for and take my time soaking up the city now with a full-time job and limited energy, this is difficult.
So I'm looking for identifiable projects and it leads me back to the question, why? Why do I want to take candid pictures on the street and where and who do I want to shoot. What is the meaning of my work? Should I just hone my approach and keep doing that or should I try and nuance it with some novel type of person or specific place?
I suppose the answer to all those questions is yes because at the moment I'm doing nothing and there is nothing worse in photography than doing nothing.
I am thinking about abandoning my spotlight shots and going back to the night, especially as the evenings draw in. I've spied a 1.4 lens I want and getting out there to shoot using electronic billboards as lighting. But I'm concerned about my motivation, my desire to create this work and I really feel like I need a kickstart to get it going again. Any ideas?