Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A New Year's Musing

I just came back from a holiday with my parents in Hong Kong. I took my Canon Powershot S9 along and took some photographs. I feel somewhat distant from my photographs now. I see images as compositional exercises at the moment. The photographs I take are not bad. My eyes are now trained to look for interesting things to shoot and my brain is wired to sort out compositions that evoke emotions. But because making images has become second nature to me, the images that I made in Hong Kong have almost become trivial.

When we start photography, we come to grips with the equipment, how does the camera work and how are images presented. The next stage is an aesthetic one. How do we create emotions in an image and get reactions from the audience. And at some level this is a question of spatial organisation within the frame of a camera. There are probably reasons for finding new angles and novel compositions, but at the moment, I am unable to find a compelling reason to explore this. Technique for the sake of technique is nothing more than empty posturing.

It is strange how photography has been a constant journey of learning and change for me. I have worked through the first two stages and I am looking for more personal work. I am no longer motivated just to take a nice picture, I want to take images that has more depth. And it some ways, a simpler way of photography maybe more suitable, without all the complex lighting equipment and assistants. I felt that a whole new area of photography opened for me in Tuscany when I took the course with Anders Peterson. Compositional puzzles are simply spatial exercises. Why take a photograph if it is just pretty? How will the image engage the viewer?

I have been watching documentaries and reading books on well known photographers. And it is apparent time and again that photographers are eventually recognised for images that are important to them. There is some idea or vision that they have to get out. And very often, the impetus to make images come from somewhere else, like Walker Evans documenting migrant workers, Man Ray exploring perception. My path is still not clear to me now. But what is becoming clear is that the old ways that I have done things may no longer be the right way for me to continue on my journey. Maybe running a business and doing corporate work is more a distraction than a means to an end. I do not have a logical explanation for what I am feeling or going through, but I never have all this time I have been a photographer. I have and will probably always be an accidental photographer. It is more that photography found me than I pursued it. And I believe, to move on, I have to let the inner impetus take me. The path is not a logical or a strategic one. The path is a siren song calling me along perhaps a rocky, dangerous path. Or it can be it could be the path to new vistas.


s tsui said...

I've lately been thinking about the same problem, although of course on a far less sophisticated level. I mean, over half of the people in my age group has recently "taken up photography", armed with dazzling DSLRs and lenses. Most of their pictures are crap; those that are not are empty. I've been asking myself constantly: why am I making this image and, for snapshots in particular, what am I adding to this image that is unique to myself? I want to express myself through my photographs. I don't want to be churning out pretty images just for the sake of making something pretty (like impressionism). My camera has been in a coma lately because I more often than not can't present a good answer to either of my two question...

You have always done great work whenever you set your mind on a course. Your courage is admirable and I wish you the very best. :)

Heng said...

Thanks for your words of support Sharon. :)

Anonymous said...

somehow i miss the images you take on ur free time more than ur portrait stuff.
take the #@%!@%!@ camera and go out and shoot more!