As a well known and committed procrastinator, it was only a few weeks ago that I realised that a couple of 2016 projects and goals were going to need quite a number of new, exciting and creative photographs taken. Creativity is one of those skills that has never come easily to me – and probably never will. So delaying making plans to fulfil the requirements of my own needs was another stuttering step embedded in my procrastination.
I was brought back to reality when a week out from a long-planned speaking engagement I realised that the details loosely floating around in my head needed to be set in audio-visual concrete and speaking notes were required to keep me within the tight time constraints nominated by conference management.
This flurry of activity then generated the realisation that other projects needed just as much urgent attention.
Coinciding with my small commitments to the photography convention was the visit of a couple of international friends who were key-note speakers on the same bill. My hosting them during their Brisbane stay was one of those privileged benefits gained from having access to peer review from long time friends. I have banged on often enough in this column about the value of mentors, and peer review to enhance your understanding of your own work, and so here was my opportunity.
It soon became obvious that it wasn’t the chilled Chardonnay being taken to ward off Brisbane’s humid summer that was doing the talking – but that I had some mental blocks that required re-adjustment. A lot of the current images that were being compiled to complete these projects were taken on overseas jaunts. Certainly an obvious way to seek out new visual interpretations, but not necessarily the only way of completing assignments.
NIMBY – not in my back yard – had become part of my raison d’être. I had become the very person I have spent most of my teaching and mentoring career warning students against.
With some firm and pointed observations my friends noted loudly that I wasn’t spending much time documenting my beloved home town. ‘Where are the photos of locals and familiar scenes?’ they asked. Another good friend is working on a personal project titled 500 metres from my desk and I have been giving him strong encouragement on seeing his powerful and creative images.
I was obviously having difficulty in seeing 5 metres from my desk, much less 500!
With these thoughts pulsing through my brain I attended the opening of an exhibition that had had its genesis during Australia’s bi-centennial back in 1988. The re-hanging of this show would give me a chance to revisit the prints that I had processed for one of the six artists being shown. A chance to review my processing skills after almost 30 years. They were still in good condition!
More importantly I took a camera with me to the gallery. Now there is a radical thought. Well for me it was – I know I tell every one else to carry a camera, yet often I am not one to do so. To my absolute surprise a couple of shots jumped out in front of me. One or two are tolerable and may well end up residing in a presentation portfolio.
Several conclusions were reached in the past few weeks. Good photographic friends are valuable beyond words, even if their comments are sharp and cutting and a little too close to the bone; interesting photographs are sitting, waiting for all of us very close to where we are at this very moment; and having a challenge and being challenged is the quickest way to lift the quality of one’s visual output.
I’m on to it now! Stay tuned…
This essay first appeared in f11 Magazine :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS and AFICIONADOS, p152, issue 52 :: March, 2016.