Hello lovely people.
Outside a chunk of home maintenance, I’ve been going through boxes of stuff. I could fill a year of emails with tales of the things I have found. In warped plastic crates, old suitcases, dusty cardboard boxes, broken briefcases and folders from my childhood. Maybe I’ll trickle odds and sods here.
Going through one box of photos had me worrying I was not writing. But the mountain of memories hide journals and photographs I need to take me back. Back to places I’m currently trying to write about.
Trawling through negatives and photos also had me pining for the days when I’d call myself a photographer. When people paid me for pictures. The days were long as I’d edit into the night. But handing over something meaningful and appreciated was always rewarding. No one had to ask “What is it you do again?”
When I specialised in photography I never needed to advertise. At the moment, outside of here, where I’m the person that writes emails, I guess people think of me as a trainer and occasional videographer. I’m not quite sure. All I know is it’s been a while for anyone to hire me as a photographer. Probably because I’ve not called myself a photographer for years.
[Adds photographer to Twitter profile to remind people.]
Being hired to document events with a phone has been perfect for a generalist. Photos, audio and video snippets all going into a timeline with a particular hashtag. It’s fast paced and fun. But now almost everyone captures and shares with a phone, is there any need to hire someone else? Perhaps I’m in a tech conference bubble, but there are loads of people snapping countless photos. Throwing them into a timeline that doesn’t stop flowing. It’s incredible what the computational algorithms in phone cameras can do. But for me these images feel disposable. Either lost in the timeline or buried on a phone.
And then there is the person with the camera that is just a camera. Who’s main job is to capture high resolution, well framed, well lit, considered moments. Some to be shared on the day, but most for the long tail and for years to come.
I miss being that person. When I finish this writing project I’ll focus my attention not just on words, but also on more considered picture taking. Like I did for many years.
This particular rabbit hole had me chat with with Lou and Alex about cameras. Both had similar thoughts and are still fans of the DSLR. London based photographer Paul Clarke is all in on mirrorless cameras. Plus diversifying into video not only saved him during lockdown, he is going from strength to strength. He is also the master of getting pics back quick.
I also messaged Herb Kim. I asked him what the benefits are of hiring professional photographers for his events, when participants share as they do. He does both TEDx, where having a pro snapper is an event requirement, and the amazing Thinking Digital. Herb told me that everything they photograph professionally ends up on Flickr. Pro photos ensure the event looks great. These photos help with the overall experience of the event both during and after. Posting choice photos in realtime helps amplify the event. Having a great photo library can be very useful marketing for years after.
Finally I chatted with Thomas who works a lot with Herb at Thinking Digital. When I messaged him this afternoon he was in New York heading to Chicago to shoot a conference. He told me that post covid he was seeing less haggling on price, and more of a focus on quality and quick turn around. He also has a polished workflow and understands this only works when you have a great image to start with. He is using mirrorless. Currently Fuji but is jumping ship to the Nikon Z system.
These conversations partly spawned from procrastination. But I’m also looking at a pile of camera gear I rarely use. Some of my lenses cost a small fortune. Story capturing tools sitting dormant. I thought the Fuji X100T was the last dedicated camera I would ever own.
The iPhone has revolutionised mobile photography and I’m sure it will continue to be my most used camera. But you don’t have to be a pixel peeper to notice it’s flaws. Horizon halos and artificial blurring abound, and yet modern phones contain some of the most amazing cameras around.
But I miss the pixel rich depth of a hi-resolution image captured in low light. It doesn’t matter that people mostly view the images on a phone. Photography is the tool we use to capture a moment of reality. But the art lies in the process. Yes speed is key for todays hungry eyes, but if you can be as fast with a pro camera as you can with a phone, the rewards are huge. More shades of colour, more dynamic range, more control over the finished image. More reality.
Having been freelance since 2002 I can never really sit still. When you do what you can just to get by, you can loose sight of what you love. I still love photography and am amazed at what I can do with my iPhone. But I miss working with a dedicated tool.
I’m finding it all too easy to talk myself into selling a bunch of old gear in order to buy something new. How might I use it? A dream job for me is reportage. Being left to my own devices to capture the emotion of a place or event. To record and archive a moment. To make people feel like they were there.
Has war changed or only war photography?
A Brief Disagreement. [03:05]
This movie does not exist. AI generated movie poster.
This book is Kobzar by Taras Shevchenko. I brought it back from the Ukraine in 1994. A gift for my Grandad. Having been away from his homeland for 50 years he treasured it. I had no idea at the time how important this book was in Ukrainian culture. All I knew was that it had been censored by the Russian Empire.
On opening it just now I found a bookmark. It was the carefully removed label from a vodka bottle I had gifted the same time as the book. He wasn’t much of a drinker in old age, but I remember him sharing this bottle with me. Over weeks we would ceremoniously drink a shot on my visits. He’d read a poem from the book, and we’d lift our glasses saying “Budmo!”. Chasing the vodka with a bite of gherkin.
I never understood the poems he read. But I loved the sound of him reading them to me. Even when he cried at the end.
He went blind in his last years and gave all his books away apart from this one. He couldn’t read it anymore, but it obviously meant a great deal to him.
I can’t read it as I never learned Ukrainian. But I hold on to it because it also means a great deal to me.
“When I am dead, bury me
In my beloved Ukraine,
My tomb upon a grave mound high
Amid the spreading plain,
So that the fields, the boundless steppes,
The Dnieper's plunging shore
My eyes could see, my ears could hear
The mighty river roar.
When from Ukraine the Dnieper bears
Into the deep blue sea
The blood of foes… then will I leave
These hills and fertile fields --
I'll leave them all and fly away
To the abode of God,
And then I'll pray…. But until that day
I know nothing of God.
Oh bury me, then rise ye up
And break your heavy chains
And water with the tyrants' blood
The freedom you have gained.
And in the great new family,
The family of the free,
With softly spoken, kindly word
Remember also me.“
~ Taras Shevchenko, Testamento
The toast ‘Budmo’ means ‘Let us be’.
I’m a chunk of the way into Robert Macfarlane’s Underland. It’s a hell of a book that requires some focus. Macfarlane’s prose as he documents subterranean journeys is sublime, horrifying at times and totally fascinating.
That one long read that kept me gripped this week is this. Thanks to Thack for sharing.
I have Lo-Fi playing in the background.
The charts are pretty much meaningless. There are too many songs and not enough hits.
You don’t need the charts to discover new music. Head over to Bandcamp. And if you struggle to search for something manually, how about heading to Random-Album.com.
Just refresh if what is delivered doesn’t take your fancy. Thanks to @Morphyn for building it.
This was my first find…
Drop yours in the comments if you like and we can discover new tunes together.
Just finished a bottle of wild Turkey 101 that I got in February. I do like the occasional bourbon.
Pies of the world.
[Be prepared for a couple of Amazon affiliate links. If you can buy from a local toy or game store, shop there.]
Me and my daughter have been playing the card game Mantis. It’s from the makers of Exploding kittens. I used to baulk at paying 15-20 quid on what is effectively two packs of cards. But these games are very playable, al little addictive and most of all fun. I feel we have already had our money’s worth.
I must thank the paying subscribers that pay $5/month to get all the content I share into this feed. If you are able, please upgrade to become a paid supporter. Either way… Thank you for reading.
Stories of urban rewilding.
If we had any enemies the Documentally community map would be telling everyone where we are amassing. But we don’t. So all is well.
All you need to know about GoPro FX Reframe as shared in @DotsAndSpaces Substack
A climate aware photography course. Learn more about the effects of climate change and discuss photography’s impact on the environment.
Can we trust the science? Sometimes, yes.
Thanks for reading. I love sharing this and long may it last. One wonderful side effect of sharing this publication is that some of you hit the subscribe button. Some even bung me a few quid a month to support these endeavours. It’s a small extra step but I find it hard to tell you what that means. I’m told again and again that the large majority of writers don’t make any money. That writing a book will not make any money. Although not sustainable the trickle of income that comes through this is a constant source of hope. Something the freelancer needs to survive.
It’s a rollercoaster ride where stress, worry, and a lack of motivation is immediately alleviated when someone has faith in what you do. Or goes that extra step to support you by buying your time, skills, or in the case of here, subscribing.
At all other times lethargy, doubt and procrastination are the enemy. The only thing that can pull you through is you. Remember how lucky you are. Remember why you are doing what you are doing, and get to work.
Just like there are people out there that I know will love this space and this community, it’s important to remember that there is always someone somewhere looking for exactly what you do.
So do as much as you can. If you are able, do the things that make you happy. For me that is documenting. Be it with audio, photos, video or words on a page. It’s all story. Reflections of some kind of reality.
“My experience of life is that it is not divided up into genres; it’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel. You know, with a bit of pornography if you're lucky.” ~Alan Moore
Find beauty, be still.
See you out there.
As I was reading the email Christian, where you were talking of the stash of tapes and photos you're rediscovering and thinking through the stories which you'll include in your book, it dawned on me… You're a multimedia production machine going back decades.
Are you intending on trying something a little different but still the same, as just writing a book? There will be a digital version of it certainly, so why not include all the other media around the words, and even as we read the dead tree version we all have our iPhones within reach and a sneaky little QR code to take us to your voice or an image from 30 years ago. I know some of these ideas have been used since the early days of blogging but how effortless and creative can you make it?
I think there are possibilities different from just being a book of text with a few images in the centre but also not 40,000 word version of a 'Life' magazine article or an overbearing blog post filled with interminable distractions. I wonder what you might come up with???