Generic Boundaries, and my photography
Another navel-gazing post…
I’m putting together a countdown of my shots of the year so far, which I’ll post in the coming days.
This, and further reflection, has prompted me to some offer some further musings about the state of my photography, and how to position it – both now and in the future.
The header of my blog tells you that I’m primarily interested in macro photography. Increasingly, though, I feel that this definition is a little limiting.
Of course, the majority of my shots are taken with macro lenses (at present 69% of my flickr shots of 2014 are taken with Micro-Nikkor lenses). On the other hand, I’m growing slightly tired of trotting out standard ‘insect on stick’ photographs with little or no added mystery. This isn’t to say that I won’t continue to document my outdoor adventures seeking out biodiversity, because I will and that’s important – but, photographically, I’m starting to look for more: more than documentation, at least.
A couple of things this year have helped me along: Ming Thein’s blog has helped me think much more graphically about photography – I think it’s important to try to think about photography as a branch of graphic design, or indeed art; also, Tim Parkin’s On Landscapes magazine, and the many articles and videos there (especially those involving two acknowledged British masters, David Ward and Joe Cornish), have helped me to think about my image-making and my connections with the landscape, and ‘landscape photography’, more clearly.
As you will see from my images countdown, there are fewer shots here that are of the ‘nature subject on stick’ type, and more that are more graphic, more contemplative, or both.
I’ve just checked, and this time last year I listed a top 10 macro shots, a top 10 butterflies shots, and an extra 5 for other things. What this tells me is that this year, first of all, I’ve had, admittedly, rather less time; but, also, that I’ve tried self-consciously to slow down, and actually take fewer shots. Thinking about landscape photography here has helped me with this: obviously with macro there are times when you just have to make the best of a one-off lucky situation or opportunity, but on other occasions, especially with still-life subjects, you can afford to be selective and thoughtful.
For a whole host of reasons, I’m rather sceptical about the rationale and functioning of ‘generic boundaries’, whether in photography or anywhere else. There’s a general tendency to separate macro off and keep it well away from landscape photography, for instance, but I’m increasingly of the opinion that this divide is false. Of course, it is policed, through the artificial structures of, for instance, photographic magazines, competitions, and perhaps most obviously online forums, but I think it’s important to appreciate its artificiality.
One of my little peeves about my otherwise still favourite online nature photography site, naturescapes.net, is its generic compartmentalisations of photography – not only between landscape and macro, but between different kinds of landscape. Partly, I think, this is because it’s a site hosted in the US, where the traditions and opportunities for, and thus definitions for, what ‘landscape photography’ is are actually more to do with the US concept of ‘wilderness’. For Naturescapes, this means that images with man-made elements in them get put into the ‘Travel and Culture’ forum instead, which, naturally, receives far fewer views, comments, and constructive critiques, on what is, after all, billed as a nature photography website. I find this unfortunate. In places like the UK, and many other places in Europe, for instance, it is very difficult – unless you impose further generic restrictions on your own photographic output (‘seascapes’) or seek out very remote locations – to take landscape photographs of this traditional ‘grand vista’ kind.
So, I’m all for experimentation, and genre-crossing or -confounding. I hope in 2015 to continue to explore this, and help my photographic journey along! It will be tricky, and I may not succeed at all, but at least it may keep things interesting…