Photography is an absolute pleasure to get involved in, it can put you in all sorts of places and situations where normally, without a camera, you would feel quite out of place and often vulnerable. Not only does photography allow you to be at that extraordinary place or involve you in some amazing experiences, it also, after time, provides an opportunity to look at things differently, a socket on a wall, shadows on the pavement, raindrops on glass…. You start to notice the abstract and after a while, it draws you in. Even on a busy photo shoot, while running around making sure the light is right, composition and a complete focus on the subject in hand, something on the periphery attracts your attention - just for a brief moment, a hidden world that reveals itself almost by accident and then is gone.
I tend not to look at other photographer’s work, only so I can concentrate my own style of photography but what I have found inspirational is looking back at the pioneers of the 1920’s to the 1980’s and I find myself taking inspiration from them even to the point, when time permits, taking out a film camera and trying to think like those pioneers did way back then.
One photographer who has pretty much nailed abstract photography was the late Brian Duffy. Mostly known as the man who shot the sixties along with David Baily and Terence Donavan.
Brian could see the abstract in anything and his work reflected this on his assignments, he was not so much a person who could think out of the box, to Brian, there was no box.
One of Brian's works was The Snail. To me this is so abstract, how was his mind working to come up with an idea of putting a snail on an eyeball. When I first saw this I was so impressed. With photography, we are surrounded in a world with things to photograph, generic photography, yes we can be creative on a theme, weddings, people, landscapes etc - but with this, all of a sudden a whole new world of photography exists where the level of creativity is only held back by the artist.
Well, I had to have a go. Not easy, I had to purchase an eyeball, then find a photogenic snail, the hardest part was getting the snail to come out of it’s shell and not slide off the eyeball. I found the best way to do this was to warm the surrounding air with a small hair-dryer.
Snails also make a slimy mess which needs clearing up for each shot, the eyeball kept getting all slimy, the snail was never going to be one to rush into the perfect pose, we had to work at the snails paces, good job "Bernie" the snail was not being paid by the hour
I finally managed to get Bernie into the correct pose, once the ice had broken between model and photographer, Bernie performed admirably.
When Brian shot his Snail, he was using film, I do have a film camera but decided to use digital as my lighting system work better with current technology, but, no photo shop, the only editing for this shot was cropping, convert to B&W and clarity.
I would recommend anyone starting out in photography or even running a business from photography to allow yourself to put some time aside, think about something crazy and go out and do it. Look to the past to move your photography forward, put yourself in a position where you spend hours using and getting to know your camera and look beyond the comforts of digital convenience, put yourself outside of your comfort zone, hear your heart beat faster and your mind and camera will do the rest.