An exploration of the world of creative photography
Diane Seddon ARPS AFIAP CPAGB BPE3* started her talk by asking us to imagine we were walking, in the dark of the night, to the middle of a long disused bridge across a mountain lake. The night is cool and your senses are sharpened. You hear a voice in the distance, unknown, asking you to jump off into the darkness of the water below. Would you? Why? Are you going to make that jump?
Diane’s message is to break the bounds of your photography, to dare to be different, to let your creativity loose, to build on that creativity by exploring new and alternative images to capture, and to not always be constrained by the ‘rules’ under which typical camera club competitions are run. In other words, to explore the world of photography for your own benefit and pleasure.
Diane‘s father was a wedding photographer, but she started work in the insurance industry. There in a role where she sometimes commissioned photographers for her employer she found herself having to step forward to cover an event where they had sacked a rogue photographer and had no standby available. This chance opening eventually resulted in her becoming a full time photographer herself, in the early years mainly within that same insurance industry. Most of her work involved pictures of celebrities for promotional purposes. She has now retired from the world of work, and today takes pictures for her own pleasure.
Diane asked us think of our last creative idea, what was it, how long ago, did it work, was it a success or a complete failure and if the latter, did that matter? She encouraged us to both listen to the voices in our own head encouraging a broader approach to photographic subjects and techniques, as well as listening to other points of view. Other voices can include social media, voices from the past, from peers, family and friends, from colleagues. But the question is always, ‘who can you trust’? Input from the wrong source, whether positive or negative, can be hindering to you own development.
Diane went on to touch on the sensitive subject of ‘gear acquisition syndrome’ from which many of us suffer. She asked what would happen to your own photography if you had already bought the last new camera and the last available new software update? She believes that, for many of us, our photography would improve because we would learn to use our hardware and software more fully, rather than rushing off to buy that next new shiny thing we imagine will make our work better.
She recommends that we attend galleries and exhibitions, look at other peoples work to gain ideas and inspiration, to look at the work of painters or other artists from history, to broaden our range of work and of subjects. In particular, when out with a camera we should aim to have fun, to try something new and to learn something new. To experiment!
Diane pointed out that big and expensive DSLR cameras are not necessarily essential for creative photography. Modern compacts, bridge cameras, phone or tablet cameras can all give impressive results when operated correctly. What is essential is to know your gear. To be able to operate it in the dark, to understand the exposure triangle, and to above all practice, practice, practice. She suggests writing down ideas for later implementation, to walk around a subject looking for the best viewpoint before starting to shoot, to think about what you are trying to do.
Diane then went on to talk about camera club type competitions. She talked about judges who are often asked to judge submitted work within a set of rules about how work is composed, framed, focused, etc. Whilst they are doing their best they can sometimes appear to apply the rules haphazardly, and to deliver their verdicts in ways that can sometimes encourage and sometimes discourage the recipient. In particular, they may completely misinterpret the way the picture was intended to be viewed. She described this experience as being ‘good for the soul’. However, our work does not always have to be for such competitions but can be for ourselves. We should consider giving ourselves creative license to operate outside of competition type rules, seeking inspiration outside of our comfort zone.
Diane touched on developing a project for ourselves, perhaps a panel of harmonious pictures which together form an interesting group. Something both challenging and interesting, but requiring effort and passion. Perhaps a single subject, taken through the seasons, or alternatively during both day-time and night-time. She illustrated this suggestion with such a panel submitted to the RPS; multiple pictures, remarkably none of which had a clear point of focus.
The talk was illustrated with numerous photographs by the speaker. These can be viewed on her website at https://www.dseddonphoto.co.uk/galleries/personalwork
These website pictures cover a wide range of work, from simple images to impressionistic work consisting of double images, blended images and multiple combined images running into scores of separate exposures. Diane tells us that such work develops camera craft and editing skills.
Diane’s final advice was to loosen up, let go, don’t try ‘too hard’. You are better than you think you are! Take more pictures; the more you shoot the luckier you get.
And the final question to us — are you going to jump?