Friday, November 09, 2007

world in pictures

I've been thinking about this one for a while... when I was at Pardshaw and we were walking down from the crags I remembered a conversation I'd had with Derek several years ago doing the same walk.

I was commenting on his lack of camera given that he used to go everywhere with a rather fancy camera and sizeable bag of accessories, his reply was that he realised he felt the need to stop viewing everything through the lens and take part in what was around him more. Recollections came to me of (I assume) Japanese tourists at some beautiful viewpoint in the Highlands of Scotland trooping off their coach videoing everything in sight and then getting straight back on again. They hadn't really taken in anything of the majesty of the place, absorbed the sheer energy of the mountains or even noticed the sparkling dew-laden spiders webs at their feet. Some had posed for photos - but next to the bus!!! Um hello, dramatic scenery as a backdrop or a coach - they chose the coach, whatever. That conversation made me think a lot about my own photography and I found myself taking fewer photos when with people doing things instead putting my energy into being with them and taking part. Exceptions were when lazing around in free time at Summer School - a perfect opportunity to get some sneaky portrait shots.

But more recently I've become aware of how my increasing interest in photography has made me look at the world in a different way. I'm not constantly looking at the world through a viewfinder but I do find I see beauty (and photographic opportunities) in unexpected and everyday places far more often. I've always noticed things like the way light plays on the leaves of trees but I find myself now often struck by the way it hits buildings, I see details I would have previously passed by (often thinking 'Jim could make a picture out of that' and not quite managing to capture what I know he could achieve!). I've become far more aware of the world around me but I've realised as I've come towards the end of my trip back to the UK I've only got people photos where I've consciously made the effort to get them or had more relaxed time in which to do so. So images of most of the more fleeting encounters are recorded solely in my mind - probably not the most reliable of media but at least it won't become technologically obsolete!


Julian said...

When I first got a camera (digital, I never had an analogue one), I only ever took 'snapshots' of people. This I think was a reaction against, over the years, Dad showing me thousands of photos of mountains from his tramping trips. Your photography though Anna has led me to notice the beauty in the small things. Dew drops on leaves, light on a wall, ripples in water. I stop and see these far more often now, and am once in a while more present in the moment because of it.

martin said...

It's not a modern phenomenon, Anna. Once idealised landscape painting caught on in the 18th century, those on the Grand Tour (or on the Romantic, post Wordsworth tour of Lakeland) would turn their backs on Picturesque scenery and view it in a mirror with a frame painted on it...

And in the extreme, both artists and art tourists would carry a Claude Glass which further abstracted the natural beauty towards the tonal values of the final painting.

David Dimbleby's A Picture of Britain has a good demonstration of its use.

Chris M. said...

I saw one of your photos of the crags on QuakerQuaker, so I clicked through to your Flickr account and then to your blog, which I hadn't read in a while. Nice to catch up with your travels a bit!

It's funny, I just wrote on my blog about how my way of seeing in my mind made me finally go get a decent camera. Then I did a series of test photos in the bathroom that came together nicely as an allegory of Quakerism, which I put up on Flickr.... Which is why I was peering so intently at the QQ photo sidebar, because one of my images found its way there too.

Anyway, this was the blogpost.

-- Chris Mohr