Flavour of (the) Week Nine

Having concluded the previous post at week eight of this year, picking up where I left off brings me to week nine. At that time I only had the tail end of one roll of Portra 400 scanned, two or three frames at most. I now have almost a whole roll to share now and so, to keep things ticking over here, share I will.

As can probably be gleaned from the above, I started the week with the tail end of a roll left in the camera from the previous weekend in Planes, Alicante. I don’t like wasting frames but I also wanted to finish the roll quickly in order to get it to the folks at Carmencita Lab for developing and scanning.

Please, no piss.

The picture above is my favourite of the three frames I made to finish off that particular roll. It is possibly a good illustration to use the next time I’m asked what it is that I photograph and I struggle to explain that I photograph anything I find interesting or funny, either visually, culturally or socio-historically. In this case, it was a sign pleading with passing dog walkers (presumably) not to allow their animals (again, presumably) to urinate against a particular section of wall.

The following morning I set off for town (actually the country’s third largest city) to see a man about a job, and to get my newly finished film developed. I had also loaded the next roll of Portra 400 and did make a couple of photographs that morning, although the need to get to places (contrary to Jay Maisel’s advice on walking slow) and the fact that I usually find the more curated nature of city centres less inspiring than the often unrefined suburbs or rural areas did limit my productivity in terms of images.

It’s increasingly rare for me to photograph people. This has been something of a contradiction (and at times a frustrating one) in my relationship with Photography because I love Documentary and Street Photography, two genres where people feature heavily, and which dominate my book collection. However, the urge to photograph people rarely comes to me. There are those who love to make portraits and feel inspired to do so. There are those who find inspiration in a particular tree. There are those who wander the streets captivated by those all around us in society, or attentive to the interplay of slight gestures. There are countless other subjects which inspire different kinds of people. All of these are valid but not all are likely to fit with every photographer, just as Photography itself is not going to fit with every single person. There is no harm in trying different genres, but ultimately it is important to realise when something is (or isn’t) right for you.

Having realised very early on that I was not the type of person inspired to create portraits, I feel that in hindsight it took me too long to realise that I wasn’t really interested in photographing people at all. I love people. Some of my best friends are people. That doesn’t, ultimately, mean that I want to photograph them.

My appreciation of Street and Documentary Photography led me to aspire to create that type of work, but ultimately, I don’t enjoy creating that work as much as I enjoy looking at it. My efforts at Street Photography in particular, and Documentary Photography involving people, simply never felt honest, genuine or heartfelt. I think that can be seen in the photograph above. It isn’t abjectly terrible. I do think you can see that my heart isn’t really in it, though.

«So go do what you like. Make sure you do it wise. You may find out that your self-doubt means nothing was ever there. You can’t go forcing something if it’s just not right.»

As I alluded to earlier, another realisation has steadily dawned on me in recent months, namely that I seem to find more inspiration outside of the city. This, again, is very much a personal thing. For many there is no finer place to make pictures than among bright lights, gleaming surfaces and bustling streets of big cities, but this seems not to be the case for me. Some of it may be to do with my background, a suburban/rural one, leading me to feel a stronger personal connection with these environments. Whatever it was led me to finish up most of the remainder of my roll of film wandering a stretch of fields somewhat left in no man’s land between Valencia and Paterna. I had actually already wandered and photographed along this same route a few weeks earlier, but still found more new points of interest here than I had all week in the city.

Some of this perhaps comes down to intent. When out and about in the city, I am often running an errand or on my way somewhere, with an objective in mind other than Photography. However, I don’t think this explains everything. When I give myself freedom to wander the city aimlessly, I might make a few more pictures than I do when I’m walking for another purpose but accompanied by my camera. I still don’t produce as much when exploring a small town or some countryside, and nor do I enjoy the resultant photographs as much. The photographs I make in the city are often still somewhat forced, even if I haven’t obliged myself to photograph a person, whereas the photographs made in more rural areas seem to have come from genuine intrigue.

That’s really about all I can squeeze from this particular roll of film, certainly in terms of analysis and ‘insight’ into the (or at least ‘my’) photographic process. There are a couple (but not many) of frames I haven’t shared here, but three of those belong to the following week, which I will share with you (possibly imagined reader) soon.

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