As a photographer, there are a number of questions that come up with some frequency. Some of these questions are rather mundane, such as ‘Your camera must be really good. What model is it?’, while others are interesting, but not always answered in the short amount of time that is available in today’s busy lifestyle.
From my perspective, the interesting questions tend to center around the following areas:
- Artistic choices made in shooting, editing, printing, etc.
- Learning the technique and art of photography
Certainly, there are other topics that are fun to discuss, but these areas are the main ones.
As I tend to focus on artistic choice questions as they relate to specific images, I will defer that topic set to those posts, which focus on a single image or a set of them.
In this post, I’ll start the exploration of the approach that I have taken, both consciously and unconsciously.
As is the case for many photographers, my first interest in photography was kindled by a family member; in my case, it was my stepfather who was an occasional photographer on vacations. But the real mystery that intrigued me came from a set of photo developing and printing supplies that I found in our apartment’s storage locker; the unusual apparatus made me wonder what that was all about.
I got my first camera around age 16 or 17. It was a Kodak Pocket Instamatic, such as the one in this image. It took C110 film and the flash cube that old photographers can tell you about.
Despite the diminutive size, it took reasonable photos, including a bunch that I took in the British Museum, much to the amusement of the guards, who wouldn’t believe that such a little camera could work; now, if I only still had the prints from that era! It traveled everywhere with me and even came to college with me.
These first steps were very much about exploration, and, in all honesty, I don’t think that I learned much on a conscious level, as I didn’t give much thought to composition or the exposure triangle. Unconsciously, this did start the process of learning to see what I liked in a photo, which is a start.
The Next Level
Leaving the Netherlands to go to college, I arrived in the United States and travelled to Granville, Ohio, the site of Denison University. As an incoming freshman, I was assigned an academic advisor in the Physics department (I knew what my major was going to be before I arrived); as luck would have it, Dr. Grant, my advisor, was an avid photographer and an Olympus OM-1 shooter.
I distinctly remember examining the prints of his work that hung in his office, which were mostly of flowers; there was something that struck me about the quality of the composition of several of them, as I noticed that I was drawn to those images again and again.
After saving up for a while, I did acquire my first SLR, an Olympus OM-1, which I still have, and switch to shooting slides; the color saturation and the ability to see the positive image were what pulled me away from print film. Additionally, slides are much more portable than prints.
During this period of my photography, I was very interested in examining structure, form, color, light and shadow; thus, a lot of my photos (technically, slides) from that period show architecture, such as the image here of a housing development in Rotterdam, which are usually referred to as ‘Cube Houses’.
When I look back to the images from this period, there is a slow maturation of my vision, but it was not at a level where I could explain why I shot an image in a particular manner. As I didn’t pick up an instructional guide or take any course, that wasn’t surprising. My learning methodology was purely trial, error and slow improvement.
The Dark Ages
After college, my photography activities diminished slowly until they were usually practiced only during vacations. There was no real attempt on my part to improve my skills or acquire a better understanding of what I was doing to create either good or mediocre images.
Of course, we know from history that after the dark ages there will be a Renaissance period; this is where the learning and skills expansion gets serious. More about that in the next post in this series.