When was the last time you finished a shoot, went through the edit and genuinely thought that you really couldn’t have done better?
My answer is that I cannot remember ever having that thought. I’ve come close and been really happy with what I have done man, many times but I can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that ‘complete satisfaction’ hasn’t featured in my work.
I have never taken a perfect picture and I have certainly never made one in post-production – but I’m OK with that.
This question was triggered by listening to an artist being interviewed on a radio programme who said that she had gone through something of a crisis of confidence having finished a piece and in that moment thinking that it was perfect. She talked about coming very quickly to hate the idea that she might never achieve that level of mastery of her craft again and that she may well have reached a professional peak at a relatively young age. That was something which her passion for what she did led her to develop a form of depression.
When I published this May 1991 portrait on my Instagram feed a couple of years ago I was shocked by the clarity of my memories of shooting it. A year or so after publishing it I was giving a talk to a wonderful group of people at a camera club who had invited me to come and show some work and tell some anecdotes and, once again, I remembered so much detail about the day and the pictures. The power of still images to evoke a time and a place is a wonderful thing. I thought that it would be good to share those memories again here and this is what I wrote underneath the post on Instagram:
Anyone who knows me and anyone who has read this blog would probably say that I am keen on technology. I would agree – I’m a geek. Despite my love of the whole digital process there’s one thing about the way that we work these days that I am not so keen on.
What’s that then? I hear one or two people asking. Put very simply, I don’t get to meet or even chat with editorial clients any more. I know that the whole COVID-19 pandemic has put a mighty spanner in the works but even accounting for that I was disappointed and a little bit shocked to realise that I have never actually met any of the folks who have commissioned me to shoot editorial work since well before we went into the first lockdown. Some of that can be explained away by my being based a hundred miles from London where a sizeable proportion of them live and work but even accounting for that I find it really sad that I haven’t got to have a coffee with any of them or even shake the odd hand here and there.
I often refer to my photographs as “telling a story”. That’s how I look at what I do. Portraits help to tell that person’s story and the rest of my work is all about creating images that either tell the whole story of work with other elements to achieve that goal. Stories don’t necessarily have to have an ending. Many of the best stories ask a question of the reader/viewer and leave them thinking about what they have seen, read or experienced. That, in my opinion, is what photography is about; telling the right stories and asking the right questions and how you choose to compose your pictures is one of the vital elements of visual storytelling.
Ten years ago I bought an 11″ MacBook Air. It went everywhere with me because it was so portable, so useful and did the job that I needed it to do. Four years ago I tried really hard to find a way to use an iPad to do the same sort of on-location quick edits that the small laptop had been so good for but I never really made it work. I kept the rapidly ageing laptop in service for longer than I should have and carried my 2017 15″ MacBook Pro on more jobs that I would have wanted to. When Apple released the M1 powered 13″ laptops earlier this year I thought that I might finally have found a solution and the reports coming from other photographers about how good they were helped me make my mind up to invest in one.
When I was posting an archive portrait a day to my instagram account during the COVID-19 lockdown I had about thirty images in my mind that were ‘must-have’ pictures that I remembered being something special. When I started to put to the set together two things surprised me;
Some of those thirty must-have pictures weren’t as good as my memory told me they were.
Quite a few others were available top take their place in the top thirty – either because they were way better than I had remembered or because I had totally forgotten about them.
A little over three and a half years ago I made a video showing users how to do a simple set-up to transmit images directly from the Canon EOS 5D MkIV camera using the built-in FTP feature. Recently a chap who saw that video asked if I could do the same with the EOS R5. At that time I didn’t have access to an R5 so I made a note to get around to it ‘one day’.
Last week I needed to get my hands on one to make sure that it was able to transmit into a server that some of the photographers that I work with use. Thanks to Canon UK and CPS (Canon Professional Services) I have had the camera for a few days, ironed out any issues we had and so I thought that I’d go ahead and make a quick walk-through tutorial and comparison video.