What can our families teach us about photography?

The park I
One way of viewing time is as an enemy, an adversary with whom you must do battle. Sometimes this is how I feel. Between work and the daily grind of life you can get stuck in a rut, feeling like there is no way of getting out. Creativity and doing the things you love can be an antidote to all of this. A panacea for the sole.

I was recently reading a blog post from the archive of the wonderful Eric Kim; 10 Things Magnum Photographer David Hurn Can Teach You About Street Photography. Not only has Eric’s post made me want to read David Hurn & Bill Jay’s book it has also made me think about how I approach my photography. In point 7 Eric talks about shooting with a project in mind. I have tried this in the past but with varied success, reading the blog post gave me a eureka moment. I have been doing it all wrong! I have been trying to make my life fit around a photography project when I should be making the photography project fit around my life.
The park II
I am great at coming up with ambitious projects which end up being a struggle to commit to. An idea which seems great in my head but ends up with me fighting against time and the vision instead of working with it. Many great photographers make their work fit to their lifestyle and constraints. I need to take a leaf out of their book and make time work for me.

So what better subject than my family!? I love them dearly and they certainly fall into the category of “shoot what you know”. Over time I have amassed a great number of images of my family but maybe I need to take a fresh look. Everyone has a family but nobody else has my family and nobody sees them the way I do. Other than genetics what is it that connects them to me? What do I see when I look in their eyes?

This doesn’t mean that I have to reduce my ambitions of course. If anything it means that I need to work harder and strive for more from my photography. I want to learn how to build a narrative, tell a my story. Sometimes you have to look without the camera in order to realise your vision when you are behind it.
The park III

Starting on the road to documentary photography

UrbanWildlife-1582.jpg

Since I picked up my camera again I have worked on a number of small projects that have helped me to improve my photography and given me something to work towards. For a while though I have wanted something bigger to get my teeth into. I have had a few ideas about what this project might be about but having recently just moved away from the city that I lived in for most of my life I wanted to use the project to find out a little more about the town that I have come to live in. I could potentially do this with a street photography project but I wanted to learn more about the people themselves and so I had the idea of starting a documentary project.

Documentary photography is a form of photography which was extremely popular in the mid 20th century and has experienced a lull more recently however a number of talented photographers have started a resurgence in the field and are producing some hugely interesting and inspiring work. Whilst I don’t feel like I have honed my skills enough to produce anything close to the work of any of these photographers I hope to learn a lot from the project both on a technical and personal level.

So where do I start on the road to documentary photography? In one of my previous posts I shared a photography project framework which I intend to follow for this project. With this in mind I went out and purchased myself a new notepad and made a start noting down my ideas. Personally having a small notepad that I carry around with me most of the time really worked. Whenever I had some time at home or in my lunch break at work I read through my notes and expanded on my idea. I also spoke to some of my friends about the project and this helped to make the project feel more real and lead me to even more ideas.

New notepad

Creating the mind map

Eventually I had quite a few notes and I was starting to feel like I wanted to move onto the next stage. Before I did that however I want to write my notes up as a mind map. I was hoping that this would help to give the lists of ideas some structure and build a picture of how a plan for the project might come together. I had previously found an online tool for creating mind maps but another search uncovered a different tool which I felt was a little easier to use: http://drichard.org/mindmaps/. You can see the mind map that I produced below and if you are interested then you can get a copy of the original JSON file here.

Documentary Photography Mind Map V1

Just as I thought I had finished putting my ideas together I found out that Huck magazines current issue was a documentary special. With this in mind I thought that this would be a great opportunity to expand my ideas further. Once I have done this I will be sure to write another post and share the updated mind map. If you have any comments or suggestions then please add the comments to this blog post.