"I eventually decided to re-acquaint myself with photography and bought myself an entry level DSLR. Because of my love for London and its inhabitants, I ended up taking street portraits and my passion for portraiture really started to grow from strength to strength. As I gained more knowledge with my portraiture work, I started my first photographic project entitled ‘the People of Soho’ focusing on making portraits of the local people in this small, but vibrant area of Central London which I had a real passion for."
"I am a firm believer that for any photographic project to be successful, you must have a passion for the area (and subject) you are photographing"
Peter Zelewski, 2016
This week the word that I can’t seem to escape is ‘passion’. It’s the thing that got this all started, the unquenchable desire to take photos, to keep striving to capture something interesting, to challenge myself to be more creative, more technically competent, just better!
I’ve been thinking about this as two facts seem unavoidably juxtaposed…firstly, the fact that the passion I had for photography has been inexorably seeping away for some time, most noticeably during the difficulties of the last module, and secondly, that passion is an absolutely vital component of successful photographic (or any creative) practice. You can’t really have one without it.
This week I’ve been listening to photographer interviews on ‘A Small Voice’ podcast and a recurring theme with all the interviewees is a determination and drive to create that allows them to overcome the various challenges that are an inevitable aspect of photographic practice. This drive always boils down to pure passion for the art of photography, it keeps them coming back for more despite the setbacks, it keeps them going even when the prospect of reward is not apparent. The sheer love of doing it is enough.
I absolutely identify with this drive. I felt exactly the same when I first picked up a camera in 2013. I couldn’t wait to get out with the camera, I’d get twitchy if more than a day passed without it. But that fire doesn’t burn with quite such vigour any more, and my work is suffering as a result. I am keen to relocate the fire. This module, with the emphasis on developing a sustainable professional practice, has focused my mind and I see the next 12 weeks as the beginning of the re-ignition process. The hardship of a life of creative struggle is hard enough to endure, but is so much more difficult without the passion to keep going. So I’m looking for the passion!
One of my key goals for this module is to develop a robust professional approach to my practice, a practical routine that ensures that I create regularly and attend to my creative impulses regularly, allowing them to grow and develop in time.
I’m keen to settle on a routine that works for me, right now, and accounts for my other professional and personal commitments. So far, I have tended to set too demanding a target (e.g. shooting 4 times a week) which has resulted in disappointment and then complete inaction. I do value time to research, read and reflect on how the knowledge gained might interact with or influence my own work. This process often prevents me from getting out with the camera as I don’t find it useful to shoot while unresolved ideas are rattling round in my head. Interestingly, Juno Calypso, a photographer who was referenced in this week’s work acknowledges that being constantly productive may not suit everyone:
"In terms of the balance, I think it’s different for everyone. Some people need to make new work every week, but at the moment I’m happy making work once or twice a year. It sounds lazy but I always remind myself that Jeff Wall only makes 3 or 4 images a year."
Juno Calypso, 2016
Another challenge has been the task of balancing full time work, my MA and my photographic interests (which I intentionally describe as separate to my MA studies). This is of course not a challenge unique to myself, with many others facing similar demands. I am encouraged by the experiences of Peter Zelewski, a photographer whose work I have followed for some time, who has managed to develop a nationally recognised practice while working as a graphic designer. Again, he constantly references the passion that fuels his singular interest in producing striking portraiture. I am also reminded of another influential photographer for me, Wayne Grivell, who has continued to produce incredibly accomplished and beautiful work despite having an accomplished career as an architect.
I need to eliminate excuses and prioritise the work that it will take to explore my dormant passion for photography and set aside the time and space required for self development and creative growth. I am excited about what lies ahead in the coming weeks.
Falmouth university ma photography critical research journal