For the last few years I’ve talked about learning how to take good, well descent photos. The idea being that it would be easier for me to sell written stories to the magazines I loved if I was also able to provide photos. The hope being that I could A: make a little more money and B: increase my marketability as writer. Not much came of that desire. I pointed my camera, pushed the button…and produced a shitty photo.
I used my camera once, maybe twice a week, took a handful of photos and then posted some of the “best ones”. For the most part they sucked and my writing marketability didn’t increase, even a smidgen. I didn’t manage to get a few photos next to my words, but I have the feeling it had more to do with the economics of running a small magazine then my skills as a photag. Becoming a better photographer was a distant goal, that I kept putting off, or, more honestly, just expected to happen. But that is beginning to change.
I was finally forced to face the fact that, in most cases, the photo means more than the words to the typical consumer. (This theory is untested of course, but I’m willing to bet that a bad, or mediocre piece of writing will be perceived as good, or even great, if the photos are good.) I learned this the hard way when a story I had slaved over, and whittled down from a behemoth 3,000(way too many!) to 950, and then 700 words. When the piece finally hit new stands it was 200 words, a sliver of white text set over a full page color photo of yours truly. When I (wrongly…don’t ever do this) freaked out (again, don’t ever do this!) I was told that the photo was great. It was humbling and enlightening. (The photo is great. Andy Bokanev took it, and once I calmed the fuck down, I was/am honored to have my words next to a photo of his, even if it is of my ugly mug.)
Fast forward ten months and I’m carrying a camera with me everywhere I go, and I’m slowly becoming less self conscious about using it. The camera is the quickly becoming, along with a journal, one of the ways I interpret my experience in this world. I think I’m slowly getting better.
I think there are two reasons for this. The first is that I’ve stopped just looking at photographs I love, but–as I would with an essay or article I like–started looking and thinking about how the image is framed, and constructed. The second is that I have I got a camera (Fuji X-E2, thanks b|f) that is tactile, and easy to use. Being able to change settings without dropping the camera from my eye, with nobs that satisfyingly fall into the next setting is teaching me how those setting change the light, and composition.
The thrust of what I’ve been shooting is informed by former cycling photographer Camille McMillan, who, for a while at least was shooting jpegs, as opposed to raw, and getting his shots straight out of the camera with no post-processing. I’m essentially treating the camera as if it were a film camera. I have no idea how to use Lightroom, not that I couldn’t afford it anyway. I consider post processing a step I’m not ready for yet.
So, what have I been looking at? Cycling photographers mostly: Emily Maye, Bokanev, and, as I said, the master, Camille McMillan. But there’s also Keith Ladinski, Andrew Burr, and Mikey Schafer, climbing photographers. Outside of sports, Diado Moyriama, William Klein, Rinko Kawauchi and an ever growing list of amazing work. Have someone who’s work I just have to see? Let me know.