Photography

I’m still not writing. I’m still struggling to get out from under the cloud of work I’m caught up in at the moment. But it occurred to me I’ve been banging on a lot on here recently about one of my passions – music – and haven’t really touched on another one: photography. I’m a bit of an amateur photographer and like to wander about places with an old fashioned 35mm camera taking black and white shots of things on genuine black and white film stock. (Occasionally I use colour, as in the photo here taken in Tokyo a few years back). There’s nothing particularly innovative about it, I don’t do it because I think I can break into the world of photography. I just do it because I like it.

I used to be quite good at art back in my school days. I was really interested in fine art, painters like Picasso, Magritte, Marc Chagall, Kandinsky. And I kept this interest up for a while, regularly visiting the Tate in Liverpool and London, looking out for new exhibitions. That all kind of changed when I walked into the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank and saw a collection of photographs by Henri Cartier Bresson. I went out and got a camera, and I don’t think I’ve ever used a pencil or a paintbrush since.

To be honest, I was never THAT good anyway. I wasn’t going to be breaking into the art world at any point. But Bresson’s photographs completely changed my perception of art. Because great photography is art. But whereas painting and sculpture, and multi-media art have become ever increasingly oblique and conceptual (which I don’t have a problem with by the way), photography retains this purely real, emotive immediacy which I guess I just find more interesting. I caught a bit of the Bresson documentary on BBC4 last night which has obviously led to this post, and one of the talking heads on there (I can’t remember who it was) said that in photography either something happens or it doesn’t. You have to be engaged enough to capture a moment when it sparks into life, but distant enough to capture it without being dragged in and thereby losing the clarity you need to depict it properly. But it’s all really down to chance and to waiting. I couldn’t agree more.

Bresson is my hero to be honest with you. He just had this ability to capture something in his photographs that I can only really explain pretentiously as a hidden truth. He snatches moments out of time and lets the rest of us see them. His portraits seem to strike right through to the essence of the people he’s photographing. His more panaromic stuff just balances perfectly the subject and his environment. The guy was a genius. I wish I could take photographs like he did.

But it occurs to me, I could apply some of what I just said to the short stories I put out last year. I’m not comparing myself to Bresson, god forbid, but trying to depict the moment, trying to get at the essence of what’s real. Trying to engage but trying to retain clarity. I’m not saying I was successful at it, but that’s what I was aiming for certainly. So perhaps it’s no great surprise photography has an appeal for me. I think I need to get out the camera again. It’s been a while. If I can’t write then at least I can hit the shutter release while I’m thinking about xml and webservices and front end components…

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