Why Photography?

From a very early age, I loved to create. Academically, art was not my strong point. I could never stay within the constraints of the lesson. My mind would wander off and create, further than my teacher wished to go.

My earliest memory of being artful was making a swan using rolled up bits of tissue paper in Mrs Isherwood’s class. I guess I would have been around six years old. I was very proud of myself until I saw another girl’s offering. In comparison hers was more beautiful, to me anyway. As I moved through primary school I became much more  focussed on mathematics and science, with art being the part of the day where I could fool around a bit. I enjoyed sketching, painting and making, but I didn’t feel that I was good at it.

Entering secondary school, and being a bit of a geek (which I was totally proud of) I strived for perfection. This was measured in how well you can remember and regurgitate the information your teacher gave you. The arts were something else. I remember the frustration of my hands not doing what I expected them to do. I saw others, who were extremely talented, make it look so easy. Beautiful sketches, creative paintings, I just couldn’t compete. Although I’m not that competitive I do like to be on par with my peers, and after seeing my own dismal efforts I knew that I simply wasn’t as able. In a system where the grading of ability is the mark of success, I chose to put my effort into something I would succeed in. My further education was based around the sciences and still this is of interest to me.

As I moved into adulthood, I dabbled in watercolour, poetry, music, dance and papercraft. For short spells these fed my creativity but not for prolonged periods of time, I would quickly move to something else.

It wasn’t until my son was born that I began to feel a need to express myself through art.again.  We both created together, with imaginary play and simple creativity. When he reached the age where he was able to express himself, his independence in his own artful pursuits emerged. Currently he is six, and when he grows up he wishes to be an artist and inventor. His own skills in drawing and storytelling leave me feeling very proud. He has interests in all types of art – film making, photography, poetry and creating inventions. He finds more fulfilment sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by paper and piles of creative projects than watching TV or playing on a computer. I find his limitless view of the world very inspirational. Maybe that is enough about my pride in him. It was a photograph of him, taken by a relative one Christmas that sparked my interest in photography.

When I got my first DSLR (a Canon 450d for those of you that are interested), I spent a great amount of time capturing snapshots of moments as my son progressed from baby to toddler to cheeky imp. I would always have my camera stuck to my face on outings and playdates with friends. In the desire to learn more about my camera I spent time taking pictures of different objects and scenes. Each time I did so, I learnt more about the buttons and dials, controlling light and depth of field.

I spent time with my family just playing around with my camera and I even took a photoshop tutorial with a man called David Johnson. He gave me some very good advice, “meet other photographers”. Eeeeek, really, what me? Go out and meet other people….. with cameras? After much self criticism, I created an account on Flickr and started to upload images. I can still remembered the nerves I felt when I shared an image. Fearing rejection from the community, I would frequently delete images if I felt they weren’t overly positively received. As it neared Christmas I was invited to a meetup of Manchester photographers. I was apprehensive and felt like a fraud as I stood amongst people with photography degrees and studios, people talking about things I didn’t even understand, and comparing photography equipment. I felt very much out of my depth and a little bit silly as we walked through the streets of Manchester like a group of paparazzi misfits. I made some excellent friends that day, people I admire for both their talent and their life journey.

What followed was a mixture of different experiences. I took part in a music industry workshop, I organised photo shoots with varying types of models, I tried landscapes but I didn’t find fulfilment. When I took part in photo walks I would find myself hunting for the lesser seen details, after growing impatient with standing in line to take the same image of the same statue as the others. Also, I just couldn’t see beauty in the same things. This was a huge struggle for me – I had finally found a creative channel that I enjoyed but I just wanted to be able to fit in and be accepted, I didn’t want to stand out. I guess I was shy and a little embarrassed, I found photography enjoyable and my art proved to be a very raw representation of my emotion. There are still images that I have a raw emotional connection to, my Chernobyl and Pripyat documentation is something I find very difficult to look at, I have only shared a handful of my images.

I became part of a fantastic group of photographers who were deeply encouraging and accepting. We met regularly, shared ideas and became great friends. We worked with Manchester Archives to create updated photographic documentations, posed as paparazzi to get the best positions for covering city centre parades, and miserably failed to cover a protest march…. due to mistiming our coffee break. The main thing was that we had fun, lots and lots of fun. The industrial parts of the city and the town I lived in inspired me, the coldness of the manmade structures, the sharpness of the edges and the simplicity of the decay. I could wander for hours around industrial estates finding beauty, sitting watching the world pass by and exploring the urban landscape. I took my time and it was here that I developed my style. After six months of feeling uncertain, I felt proud of my images.

I stumbled upon urban exploration whilst trawling the internet looking for cool places to shoot. I came across a community of people who spend their time documenting abandoned and decaying architecture. These were people who travel the world discovering and photographing history, places that have just been forgotten, that nature is reclaiming. They were business consultants, doctors, postmen, and they were spending their time preserving these locations for the future in their images. I didn’t quite realise the draw of these places until I visited an abandoned hospital. The peeling paint, the smell, exploring the corridors, everything the place was amazed me. I have since visited this place four times in totality and I have had some unforgettable times there. That is where my love of abandoned places began. It is not simply the photography that interests me, I love researching the history also. There are so many beautiful untold stories.

So I guess ‘Why Photography?’ is a pretty open question to ask, and it wasn’t meant to delve into anything deep and meaningful. It is a question that I have been asked many times. Although each time my answer may differ slightly to the previous instance, this is without intent. I love photography, I love how it makes me feel and I love the experiences I have as a photographer. Maybe this is my reason, my explanation and my answer.



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