:: Thursday, February 23, 2006 ::
missing out on snapshots
photography: Ever read something that makes you think? I was reading the December issue of the great British mag Photography Monthly, and there was an article by Will Rolls who is the marketing manager for Fujifilm UK. He was talking about the decline of the snapshot. He recounted a scene when he was in Marrakesh (yes please!) where he saw a tourist couple taking pics in a local market. The guy with a DSLR had his wife move out of the frame and worked on composing the shot and the image probably looked pro when he was done. But there wasn't a record of her in the shot. Not a snapshot. Sure he would be having a pic which could hang on his wall one day, but not one with him or his wife to laugh at and recall later.
I am in that position to a great extent. I have taken some pretty good images now and then, and when I go somewhere I look at the scene like a pro - let's call me an enthusiast - and not with the intent of having me in the shot or my friends. I compose the image, shift about to get the best angle, check the sun, wait for the car to go by etc. Being single, I have to go to great lengths to get myself in a shot and I certainly wouldn't hand my Canon over to a stranger to take my pic while standing on a rocking boat whale watching in the Atlantic. And that is part of the issue I think. Photography enthusiasts usually have better gear than their friends which often impresses, but their portfolio of pics is often missing what others have: silly pictures of their friends and themselves in the "snapshot."
I have taken tens of thousands of pictures since Newfoundland in May last year and I think that I am in maybe a dozen. And they are self portraits. I thought about what I wanted to do and then composed the shot and then took it, reviewed it, tried again, etc. Not just grabbed the point and shoot and pressed the button with no thought. As Will Rolls said, snapshots "wouldn't win any critical acclaim but these are the images that make photography magic. They represent reality captured, not contrived."
Until I read the article, I too dismissed snapshots out of hand. You won't find one on my Flickr. Everyone is used to a little pocket camera or even cameraphone. But if you have never had a big ass black Canon DSLR camera with a lens as wide as a donut in your face, it tends to take a little out of the moment. People stare at the camera and stop what they are doing. Even freeze up in some cases. I encountered this first taking pics of Kelly and Mandy. And you can't lug a big camera everywhere - I have tried... :)
Will Rolls mentioned that we need to "break out of the 'equipment and technique' mentality once in a while, downsize to a little camera and just see what happens". He concluded that an enthusiast is capable of taking some pretty good snapshots. They just have to do it. For some reason that really struck a chord with me. I took hardly any photos for ten or more years and I don't really know why. I have very very few images from when I was married - snapshot or otherwise - and now I have a kajillion images taking up space on my hard drives and decorating my walls. But I need more snapshots of my life in my life. So if you see me with my old school Olympus...
:: Mike Wood 12:49 [+] ::