On having something to say (but not knowing what it is, or how to say it)

I'm largely self educated in photography*, and while I don't regard that as any kind of badge of honour, it is a double edged sword. On the one hand I've been able to focus my limited time on a field I enjoy, without being distracted with stuff I have no interest in. I've been able to build a body of work in my own time with no deadline or agenda. On the flip side I've missed out on skills such as critical thinking and working on projects that have more of an agenda or idea behind them than 'shooting mongy old mills and stuff'.

I was once asked what my photography is about. I found that hard to answer. It's about lots of things, and nothing in particular, all at the same time. Partly I allow the viewer to put their own interpretation on the work, but I can't hide behind this when I describe my work as an interpretation of what I see. An interpretation surely is taking something and converting it into something else? So the process of conversion is this nebulous mental act on the part of the photographer that visually overlays their own prejudices on the image.
To that end it's hard to succinctly articulate what my work is about. If pushed, I'd say it's a combination of the following:

  • A survey of the remains of the Industrial Age as we transition into something else.
  • An expression of sadness at the destruction of ways of life and industries that influenced the creation of Great Britain as the world's first superpower (especially as I work in manufacturing and rely on it for my livelihood).
  • An extension of my curiosity at the way the urban and industrial landscape is constantly in transition.

Maybe photography has to be 'about' something to be taken seriously. Thankfully as I'm working to my own agenda, and without a customer, academic oversight or much of an audience, I can afford to indulge in what may appear to be superficial frivolity to the more serious minded.

Or maybe that's just an excuse.........?


*I say largely - I've got a city and guilds I did at night school.