MARCH, 2021

The Prudence Of Janet & I Regarding Photographic Beliefs

As a Professional Ottawa Photographer, I have long been affiliated with photography workshops/courses not only in Ottawa itself but with other cities/provinces. On one such occasion I found myself situated in the eastern part of Canada attending a summer nature photography program. A broad variety of personalities is common when participating in such events, and I have always adhered to the mindset that “saying little but absorbing much” from others, will truly broaden one’s horizons not just in a photographic sense, but in other outlooks of life as well. My belief is that a single person can only be a benefactor of so much knowledge during one’s lifetime then, it becomes rewarding to decipher tangible information from others representing their educational experiences regarding cumulative, personal accreditation’s of personality.

To whole heartedly comprehend other individuals levels of creativity and their particular sense of vision, one strives to assume the roll of walking in their footsteps, and undeniably release self from the equation. Distancing self opens doorways to alternate areas of thought in life and sets new limitless boundaries of vision regarding a sense of photographic maturity. As an instructor, I have always had a subdued mannerism when initially conversing with other photographers regarding their choice of equipment and visual design. “Regarding equipment in a rather light hearted interpretation”: I recognized long ago that once the comparison of how significant “others particular brand of camera is” in comparison to alternate models owned by associates, fortunately retires ego with the common denominator of seeking the truest sense of vision and participation of all. Competition pertaining to “camera manufacturer” is now distant which I feel is significant having the background I have acquired in my career of photography. I vividly recall an incident back in the 1970’s when I thought I was most fortunate to own a camera system which at that time, was quite an excellent, reliable product, and offered “zero automation” regarding it’s features. Everything was completely manual on this item. What this product or any comparable piece of photographic equipment does at this point, is to allow a person to develop a sense of concentrating exclusively on image creation as opposed to having a preoccupation and distraction pertaining to heavy automation controls/settings found in numerous camera models of today. This particular workshop was unlike many others I attended due to the wide proximity of age pertaining to seniors which I found most refreshing.

***One can acquire so much by rendering a sense of respect for others that have walked before you. Their background and life knowledge often makes conversing with them the finest school room a person has ever or will ever attend***.

During this workshop, many students were quite surprised to find a lady in her early 70’s arrive with a much older manual style film camera. The students naturally were film photographers at that time prior to the current use of digital products, but with up to date film equipment which far surpassed this lady’s camera model at the time. Her lens arsenal was limited to two and all were astounded to think that she would travel across Canada to this location bearing a maximum amount of “one roll of 36 exposure film” as a participant of a one week long workshop! I myself was as well, taken back by this limitation of film material because I find that when situated in new surroundings, one has a tendency to become exhilarated in this new sense of unfamiliarity and this in itself stimulates the spawning of visual exploration pertaining to freshly created images.

The course hosted daily slide show lectures showing samples of visual design for the benefit of students, while morning programs left each of us to explore our newly acquainted natures residence independently, and hopefully create meaningful imagery of purpose. Many photographers frequently relocated themselves to numerous locales during the image making process. However I found that Janet and I were the only individuals content to work and remain within the realm of our given circumference. It was common practice for instructors of that time period to assign specific areas to each student as to not interfere with other photographers in their given territory. I was intrigued by the constant repositioning of many in the group and questioned a few of them receiving similar responses comparable to…. “there is nothing here to photograph or…. it looks much better over there or…. the light might be more appropriate in that nook of the woods”.

Janet and I found ourselves somewhat naturally gravitating towards each other as the course continued with the most basic of camera products while being very selective and thoughtful of each of our designs. While many photographers had exposed several rolls of film, we were teased almost shamelessly that we had only exposed a few images following an entire day’s session. I asked Janet for her permission to allow me to discuss the characteristics of my large format 4 x 5 inch camera at my studio and she willing agreed. My reasoning behind this was twofold being, that with a product of such bulk and capacity, it can be very slow and cumbersome to set everything up correctly prior to exposing a sheet of film, followed by the cost factor of large format photography in comparison to 35mm. When working with large format products I explained, it not only is much more costly to acquire the film and pay for processing but the most important beneift is that the slowness of the camera itself invokes disciplinary action typically uncommon in small sized cameras. Thereby, a serious minded photographer often creates a minimal amount of imagery on any given day due to the wise investment of thought behind each frame.

The week long program journeyed forward and we were teasingly classified as the “film misers” which we agreed to openly, in comparison to the large quantities of materials consumed by others. At one point Janet completely threw me off guard when we were discussing the consummation of film when she indicated that prior to her journey to this workshop, she felt that she truly must limit the quantity of rolls during this course due to the fact that she regularly exposes a large capacity of approximately 6 rolls per year!

This was a most disciplined individual. I questioned her further indicating that by only exposing a limited amount of film on a yearly basis must be an indication that she has a most significant library of photographic material accumulated from the past and she indicated, no. Her interpretation of her art was that this chosen medium that she selected must be respected to the fullest extent if she is going to represent her mindset appropriately. There is no excuse for poorly designed imagery ever. The choice is yours. You either choose to do things in life fully and to the best of your ability or you renege on others but more importantly, yourself. How true these words are pertaining to all things in life.

The program was soon drawing to a close and both she and I sat and conversed on the last day about how we felt about the imagery produced during the week. I was quite delighted with several of my new images soon to find a way home to my slide file library. Janet expressed similar concerns but felt she overshot during the workshop and may have regrettably wasted too many frames. Inquiring how many newly created images she produced during the workshop again astonished others when she indicated with a humble sense of pride…..6! Almost one for each day of the week. She felt comfortable knowing that she had 30 remaining blanks on this 36 exposure roll to carry her forward to the end of the year!

I have never forgotten this sagacious lady comparable in many ways to myself who for the majority of my lifespan recognizes the equation of “less is always more”, and this theory incidentally carries weight in all aspects of humanity. How often it is that I notice people proceeding in life basing their motives as artists from the false assumptions and behavioural characteristics on that of others.

* The truest of photographic artists will abandon others preconceived mentalities, and absorb what they deem significant from their being. They must subtly extinguish the flame of others influence so their visual light will “humbly shine forth”, perhaps setting permanent levels of laudatory placement and enticing the ethereal dream walks of many.

With My Good Wishes,