Thursday, 31 July 2008

Depth and new ideas

I've written before about my personal inclination to wide rather than deep, but came to a realisation in striking contrast to that notion last night.

I am, yet again, in Norway (in fact this is my last planned trip for the current project) which has given me much time in one location. While I was living here I did little photography of the town and, in fact, I have probably discovered more locations in these few weeks of visits than I did in several years of living here.

Where I come from in the UK is very close to many of the biggest tourist attractions in the the country and yet several of the major draws I have never visited, despite passing them frequently.

What has all this to do with photography? Where is the wide/deep connection?

For my present travels, I have made cause to get out with the camera frequently - maybe 4 or 5 days out of a 2 week trip. In a small town, that means covering quite a lot of ground multiple times. As I've little else to do of an evening, it is a good thing to do.
My initial motivation was to put together my photobook, which became my fist SoFoBoMo effort. I have since expanding the pictures under that theme and have plenty of material for a decent 50-60 image book. But then what? Having covered that particular view of the town, I have found myself looking for new ways to approach the same subjects or inventing mini-projects. This is, i suppose, what is traditionally meant by going deep.

On the other hand, I am not so sure that much of this photography is actually truly a deep exploration of the town. Many of the subjects I have photographed are anonymous of location. Much "deep" work I see by others is similarly generic. Is that deep in the sense of exploring a given location, or merely photographing details as an entirely different subject matter? My feeling is the latter. What I have realised is that my continuing to photograph the same locations repeatedly is giving me a new perspective on looking at the world in general. In looking for details, I notice details.

[A short aside as lead into the next thoughts: I watched a TV programme the other night that talked about the psychology of living in the city versus the country. The hypothesis was proposed, with some example, that city dwellers need to skip over details to avoid overload. They move faster, do more things but maybe - my interpretation - are a little more superficial (maybe target focused) in their interactions with their surroundings. It was given as example how we all skip certain details that aren't important to us at the time, in the city there are more details to skip.]

And so I have possibly come to know this one town better than I did. Apart from places I've lived, I never visited anywhere as regularly, especially with a view to photography. I think I skip the places I lived not from lack of interest but from a sense of utility. The place I live takes on a functional character, rather than being a place to explore and understand. I don't make time to just go out and photograph things. On my trips to Norway the time comes for free, so getting out is easy.

So am I getting any deeper? I not convinced I am but I certainly teaching myself some new ways of looking at the world that are likely to affect my future photographic work.

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