Friday, May 21, 2010

For the love of photography


There was a time in my photographic journey when my life was basically about buying gear, getting into debt, living on the forums, and just shooting blindly whatever I saw. At first I was doing some street shooting, and making myself available for public events at Federation Square. I was also photographing OCF (Overseas Christian Fellowship) events and Thursday night dinners when I was free. I signed up for the Australian Uni Games, and got myself shooting the most sports events I can ever think of in one week compared to a lifetime (eg. cycling, football, volleyball, swimming, basketball).  But nonetheless, I reminisce the times when I was fighting for my first jobs. I eagerly volunteered myself to shoot my friend's weddings as often as I could (although its not a volume to be admired at all) to gain more experience in this competitive field albeit the small fee. I also offered to shoot some graduations (I did seven of them in fact end of last year), and it was quite an experience visiting three universities in a span of several weeks.

There's too much mediocrity in our local industry and media nowadays. I too have produced more than my fair share of digital junk. But that mediocrity you've been shooting plays a part in your photographic journey. You gain experience that you can't get from forums, where measurebators are more than keen to outdo each other with gear porn, MTF charts, and bokeh comparisons from L or nanocoated lenses. You learn how to talk to clients, be consistent, and keep tight deadlines, among other things. I reckon it's a small price to pay for taking mediocre photos if you can learn things which you cannot source from books,lectures and even so called local photography institutions. You just have to get your hands dirty to know what this field is really all about.

This statement may seem passe, but I find joy through photographing people, and interacting with them and seeing them smile, laugh, enjoying the simple pleasures of life. You learn from every compromise, from the failures you can't overcome because of your technical incompetencies, or the inability to interact with your subjects. At the same time, I play with my equipment, finding the best ways to tune it and prime it for the job at hand. It could be as simple as fiddling with the ISO button, to the best way of attatching a neck strap and hand strap at the same time to the Olympus E-3 camera so that it doesn't get in the way of my work.

At times I ask myself if my work on par with the highest standards of the industry. And the answer is pretty obvious - Of course not! I fight it constantly. I'm still producing underpar images because of my technical incompetencies, but I'm getting better. If its substandard, I analyze it critically and find out a way how to improve my game. I need someone higher up the food chain to call me up, and give me a beating as to what I should do to produce better photography. When we were beginners, we tried to nail the exposure and get the composition right. But we've just made a portrait where any typical studio can do for you - a bland image with none or little impact. You have come some way and made it to a certain level, but that level is a low one. We must all rise, as the bar is set much higher than that.

The hardships that we all go through as photographers is very real, though some are lucky enough to be spared from these misfortunes. I've known friends who've got their gear stolen, while others have their most beloved lens smashed to bits after it falls on hard tarmac (and no, insurance doesn't really cover the repair costs). Others accidentally slip and have their workhorses submerged underwater, paying a fortune to get them dried out and fixed. I myself have gone through the agony of sleepless nights, wondering whether to fork out a lifetime of savings for gear that would potentially change the way how I approach my photography due to a simple accident. But I did, and it is indeed a very humbling and emotionally draining experience. My parents, siblings and relatives wouldn't understand. Heck, even the person who is closest to me couldn't understand why I would agonise over a box with a hole. I shall spare you the details, but a normal person would call me crazy.

Photography is a labour of love for the craft, even though our viewers can neither see nor appreciate it. My more often than not mediocre work will never appeal to all walks of life in our diverse human culture, but it is still something meaningful to me because I shot it, and it is mine. Someday, I trust and believe with all my heart that I will produce good, impactful photography, which viewers will see and appreciate for what they are.

The whole experience and process of photography shouldn't be undermined. We all go though different and diverse experiences, but the golden lessons that we've learnt will never be taken away from us. The joy, and the pain, the successes and failures ... are all worth it for the love of photography.

2 Comments:

Lance said...

Its strange that once we have wet our feet in the photography world for some time, we can't get back the passion we once had. The passion that drives us to pursue photographic opportunities like you mentioned, covering all sorts of events. No matter what others look at you, I believe the love for making pictures remains there in your heart =)

Justin Tiew said...

Well said my friend. Totally can relate to what you are going through. the endless lust for better gear to achieve our desired goals...

 

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