Old Pictures, Late Night Thoughts

2015, London Court, Perth, Western Australia

Some days, like now, when I haven’t gotten out with a camera for weeks on end, I forget how much I love the process of making still images.

I mean, I’m aware I love it, but I think I forget the visceral pleasure and urgency of finding a frame, spying the situation, making a picture. The thrill of the unexpected reveal when working through my digital contact sheet.

There’s no magic to it, just sheer doggedness. Find a photographer whose work you like and go out and try to replicate it. Most of us start out trying to recreate something from the masters. Along the way we find our own path, and then we go on that until derailed by something else we’ve learned, found, or experienced, and then go do that for a while. It is in photography, as it is in life.

If we’re lucky, we figure out what it is we’re after. Most of us find out which part of the thing we enjoy.

I was digging around in my 2015 archives when I came across this set of pictures: the photos I made for the Fujifilm X-T10 promo when the new camera was launched.

(Ahhhhhh the good old days when Fujifilm required us to deliver straight out of camera JPEGs.)

I was in Perth at the time, my previous home for 14 years, so the West Aussie capital was the backdrop for the project. It turned out to the perfect backdrop. This was the first camera promo I’d ever done for Fuji and I was nervous as hell. So it was a good thing I knew the lay of the land and light pretty well already. There was no frantic scouting and missed timing. All the pictures and video we made inside a square kilometre… Around my former workplace 😁

They’re not particularly great pictures, I will say. I had about 3 weeks to deliver the project, which included conceptualising, shooting and editing the video to go with it (ever directed and edited yourself? That was a good few of days of cringing and trying not to die). I didn’t know the first thing about video back then, so 2.5 of those 3 weeks was basically making all manner of ridiculous mistakes… and discovering I really enjoy product shooting with video. Things you learn.

But the photos I took did look very much the work I’d made in the early days of learning about this thing called street photography. They’re simply an enjoyment of the brilliant West Aussie light, and what it does to the world.

I learned to be a photographer in Western Australia. I think a lot of me is still learning to to be that photographer, even though I haven’t been back for yonks.

I look at all these pictures from the project 5 years on, and am reminded just how much I adored (and still adore) the light in Perth. How it broadsided absolutely everything it touched, how it challenged me to see beyond the the blinding shock of it all, and insisted I get on with the business of living up to this thing I wanted to be and go make pictures and pictures and pictures.

I failed miserably and still fail miserably at the picture thing, but it doesn’t stop me. At nothing else in life am I this persistent. Not because I had/have any particular aspirations or careers or goals in mind. I didn’t. Still don’t. I just enjoy working a camera. Processing photos. I want to do this thing. Really badly. The weeks I don’t shoot, like now, hobbled by arthritis (damn this growing old business. Where’s the unsubscribe button), I’m looking at pictures, imagining shooting.

I think the one thing that photography has always symbolized for me, is freedom. Freedom to look, to see, to interpret. Freedom to wander, to desire, to claim. Freedom to see and to be seen / heard, existence acknowledged. I am an odd, anxious, scared creature, but with a camera in my hand, none of that madness is quite the obstacle that it is in the rest of life.

There is a documented space for weirdness in photography; it’s a transformative craft. I held on to a camera through my darkest years and it buoyed me faithfully, as it continues to do, still.

In the meantime, it has blessed me with with dazzling, glorious light. The kind that the late Leonard Cohen so beautifully vindicated brokenness with.

And that is something to hang on to.