80% of all good photography is based on the snapshot. Good photographs originate in the act of recording, simply and directly, a subject that is emotionally or intellectually engaging.
I'm often considering how my approach to any given subject matter or commission will be different to any other photographer. How much of my personality and individual style can I stamp on this entire set of images or at least a few of the photographs? Can I create a striking image that truly stands out and is original? Now that is incredibly difficult really and I feel one should not beat themselves up if the end portfolio of images or even the one single image does not have the striking power and iconic value of a famous Yosuf Karsh or an Arnold Newman portrait or even a Penn. Consider the mind boggling quantity of images that are created every day now we live in a digital age obsessed with the snap shot and immediacy of creating images. I had a date the other weekend and she spent the entire day recording every moment of our day out in London. Each beverage and each meal was dully recorded and uploaded to Instagram. Each new scene we encountered on our day trip was filmed and uploaded live and ready to be shared by whoever around the world in real time. Family in a far off country now know what Camden Market looks like on a busy Sunday and can experience the immediate joy of the South bank entertainment as it happens. These were very much snap shots and they form a tiny portion of the billions of images created worldwide every minute of every day. These scenes were recorded simply and directly and little effort was invested or even required to make such scenes appealing. But for sure she was engaging in her new surroundings and clearly making choices as she shot. But I’m not so sure there was an enormous amount of emotion invested and how intellectually engaging her photograph of a beef ciabatta can be. Not to ridicule the purposes and fun of sharing her holiday snaps but for sure this creation and consumption of images does have an affect on the creation and consumption of all images whether created by holidays makers or by professionals commissioned and paid to be image creators.
For sure I always feel an emotional investment when I’m shooting. It can be quite deflating when you send the images to the client and you don’t hear back. My other photographer buddies have assured me this is quite normal. Its quite typical to not hear back or receive a glowing thank you. This is always hard to take as you invest so much into every shoot and many commissions can be emotional. Particularly so if you are recording family celebrations such as weddings and parties. It is certainly intellectually engaging as so much thought and effort goes into the numerous decisions that you need to make when shooting. When I shot film I often received lovely hand written letters from brides thanking me for all the hard work and effort shooting their wedding. I have scrapbooks filled with such letters. Many on personalised paper and all hand written. But since we have gone digital I am pretty sure I have never ever received one such thank you letter. Clearly I am worried that my client is simply not happy with the results but I believe and sincerely hope that this is not the case. Is it the modern propensity to not have to acknowledge such things as you have paid for the service and its what is expected? People do handwrite a lot less now but back when I shot film people still could have emailed but they chose not to.
I wonder what elements of my day-to-day photography can be classed as a snapshot. I am no different to anyone else with a phone who grabs fun moments daily and shares them with friends on social media. That fun snap shot of an amusing sight in the city or a typical social gathering. But I do find myself always taking time to compose and arrange and ponder the image even if it’s just a snap shot. The other day I sat in a pub and photographed my pint glass in front of me. I shot it from as many different angles as I could and it was fascinating to see the difference in the images. All the same pint glass, all the same restrictions of an I-Phone but the resulting photo was so strikingly different each time. Like any visual artist I was enjoying the freedom of expression, using my imagination and being playful. Like my recent date I was recording my drink but for sure engaged with the process on a deeper level.
Someone who certainly does ponder images on a much deeper level is the American artist Tim Davy. I was commissioned to take his portrait at the Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge. He has been working on an incredible mural located in the new bar. The mural is so utterly striking and draws you in. One needs to stand on the room and lose oneself in the beautiful feminine faces. The beauty of the numerous faces is quite something and the longer you stand and absorb them the greater the impact of this work. The faces remind me of models or 50’s movie stars, with a classic and timeless quality to them. As I scroll through the images and see the pretty faces, they make me think of the theatre and the ballet and fashion magazines. In this shoot I was certainly not grabbing just a snapshot but sincerely hope as David Hurn says: creating images are as intellectually and emotionally engaging as the artwork itself.