Armed Forces Charity
If a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it’s as though I’ve neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up. I know that the accident of my being a photographer has made my life possible.
This is a great quote from the brilliant photographer Richard Avedon who I once had the pleasure of meeting in London. I will be honest and admit that I don’t do something related to photography every day. If you count living life with experiences that all contribute to me being the creative person I am and those experiences subsequently feeding back into my art and expression then the answer is clearly yes. I do not walk around with a camera round my neck every day and of course it can be pointed out that now we have such sophisticated cameras in our phones then in fact I do. Many days I will snap something of interest on my phone and I’m amazed at the quality and outcome of such images.
I feel that continued stimulus is essential in photography. Weeks with no creative stimulation are not good for any person involved in the arts. There is nothing worse than having a free diary and nothing booked to plan and prepare for. There are photographers that shoot almost every day and are in a constant state of production and creativity and then others for whom a shoot is a rarity or at least not as frequent as one would want. Then you are in that horrible mind-set of feeling nervous about shooting and out of practice and not match fit. Its getting a balance of still remaining hungry and creative and not feeling burnt out.
I do know some photographers that simply get bored and complain that it’s the same old thing every shoot and are struggling for inspiration, change and stimulus. Such a state of mind will kill any enthusiasm and creativity. I like to see myself on a shoot as searching for pictures. I want to be constantly watching and seeing and looking for moments to be captured. If I’m tired and have been overshooting and the energy is wrong then I’m not focused and hungry for images. I would hate to be in a state where I have simply given up and no longer feel that thrill and excitement of looking for images and better still, that incredible moment when you actually do capture something magical. I have been a photographer for many years and still feel that incredible excitement and sense of satisfaction when you see something others don’t and have the skill and timing to capture that moment.
I have recently returned form shooting in Thailand and Cambodia throughout most of January 2019. I went away for a few reasons and it was for sure more than just a holiday. One of the reasons for an extended trip was to shoot street photography. There is something so utterly wonderful about waking up with nothing to do except wander around with my camera and not have any real plan apart from search for images and life moments. To free oneself up from all other distractions and responsibilities and enjoy the freedom of wandering through unknown streets with the sole ambition of being creative and artistic. If you are not in ‘seeing mode’then it won’t work. So by that I mean you need to get into a mind-set where your whole attention is on watching and seeing. Not merely seeing something and moving on but seeing something happening and then watching it further and studying it and trying to see it with fresh eyes and see if the subject reveals itself further to you. Then considering what can you now record and how can you express this moment creatively in a new and revealing way. I can’t recall who it was but there is a quote by a photographer that says you need to see the world through a child’s eyes. You need to see things as if you are seeing them for the first time and you are amazed, fascinated and intrigued. We talk about seeing all the time but if you really think about it do you actually seewhat you are looking at? We talk about how people record key life moments on their phone are never ‘in the moment’. If you watch a concert and film it the entire time on your phone have you really truly experienced it? If you film your baby daughter blow out the candles on the birthday cake were you truly present and experienced it in the best possible way? If you sit and film a sunset with your loved one on holiday did you really have the same meaningful thoughts you would have if you put the phone down, hugged your partner and just allowed your mind and imagination to wander and respond to the beauty of the landscape and the emotion. We talk about mindfulness and being present in the moment and the importance of really experiencing what it is you are witnessing. As a photographer you need to be so tuned in and seeing everything. Yes you are clearly then recording it through a medium but if you are not connected to that moment and experiences then I don’t feel you can do it justice as a creative person.
In Cambodia a couple of weeks ago I was in a shop picking something up when I heard some fantastic rhythmical drumming coming from a building close by. I ventured over to discover a Chinese New Year group of dancers and drummers rehearsing for the forthcoming new years celebration. In an instant I was completely lost in the excitement and intensity of these incredibly talented kids. I went immediately into a state of mind that is so familiar when working. I shut off everything else and am hunting for images, angles, moments and compositions. I must have looked rather odd as I brazenly started rushing between these kids, uninvited and getting up close. But I couldn’t help it and all I wanted to do was try to capture this incredible performance. I was swapping lenses, getting low, pulling back, watching what was happening and anticipating what might happen next. It was utterly exhilarating and one of those beautiful moments that remind me I am still very much in love with photography. I imagine those kids wondered who the hell this strange guy was running around amongst them. The moment it ended I rushed around trying to get emails so that I could let the kids all have the images. The thought that all those awesome Cambodian kids have my photos on their Facebook pages and Instagram feeds makes me feel so good. I have since sent the pictures to the dance group and have encouraged them to use the photographs for their promotional purposes and any personal use they desire. There is an enormous sense of satisfaction from such an encounter and it feels everyone is a winner.
It was also a perfect example of feeling in the moment and immersing oneself into a state of mind that allows creatively and encourages seeing things differently. Unless these moments come around then you are not truly seeing as a photographer and shooting the best work possible. For sure on this wonderful trip I started 2019 on a high ‘seeing’ with wonderful concentration and reminded myself as Richard Avedon put it so well, that photography is essential to my existence.
This blog details one of the last shoots of 2018. I was commissioned to cover the Christmas party for the wonderful charity The Not Forgotten Association. Normally my good friend the very talented photographer Alex Lloyd undertakes this commission. He had other commitments and kindly recommended me to the Association. The annual event not only gives the retired service men and women of our country a fantastic day out but also raises money and awareness for the future care of such brave people who have contributed so much in their lives. The event was attended by 305 guests and over 40 military charities all representing the whole Armed Forces Community. HRH Prince Michael of Kent joined to meet and greet the beneficiaries and the finale of the afternoon was the fantastic performance put on by a range of talented artists. Artists included Richard Arnold, Jean Martyn, Margaret Keys, James Fox, Froback Dance Group, Boney M and Major Dixie Ingram.
For sure during this shoot I was well and truly immersed in the moment and was caught up in the excitement of the day, seeing and capturing it all as best as I could. I was reminded how photography is essential to my existence. I am sure Mr. Avedon would have been proud.