Way back in the late 80′s, I got my very first camera. It was an EOS 650. I’d wanted it because I thought it was a really cool looking camera and it had lots of amazing things on it, like auto-focus. I was not, at that time, so motivated by the art element of photography. I was around 20 years old, and I just really wanted a camera, because my friend Craig had shown me his Pentax ME Super and Ansel Adams work. I was really a budding musician, but a camera was a lot cheaper to buy than a Synthesizer was.
This week, I’ve been given the gift of discovering something that I lost a while back: one of the first photo albums I ever made of images when I had decided that photography was ‘it’. I was busy looking around the house for something else and came upon the ‘lost’ photo album, much to my surprise and also delight.
It’s been really interesting for me to look at the images contained within the album for a few reasons.
1) I’ve been able to see that elements of my current style were evident in some of the images contained within the album. In essence, these early images showed me a glimpse of where I was to go with my own photographic style / development. In my album, I see symmetry in some of the images, and a penchant for balancing objects in the frame. I had to laugh at how transparent my style was / is / has always been
2) There is an innocence in what we first create. When we start out, we don’t know what we’re doing, and that ‘not knowing’ is a form of freedom. We are not contained by rules, if anything, we think we need to know rules, so we can improve on what we’re doing. But I’m really not in agreement with this line of thinking. I see things in my earlier work that I look at with pleasure and think – wow – that’s really something that I tried that, and in some instances, what I know now that ‘should not work’, did in some of my images. It has reminded me that I should always try to be flexible and as open minded as i can in my own picture making. If only we could recapture some of that innocence we first displayed when taking up photography!
3) The path behind us, often indicates or tells us a lot about where we are going. I’ve seen how much I’ve changed. I’ve also been allowed to consider that this little photo album was perhaps the germ of what was to become a career for me, and a life changing occupation. It blows my mind to think that one thing can have so much power in shaping my own future.
So I guess I would like to ask you all, if you have been shooting for a while, to go back, dig out that first photo album, your first shots, and look at them again. All those shots you were maybe embarrassed about might contain some form of beauty that you are now mature enough to see, and would wish to develop. Conversely, all those shots you thought were ‘ace’ at the time are maybe quite embarrassing, maybe cliche, who knows? One thing is for sure, looking back on our work, is immensely satisfying. But additionally and more importantly, we can learn a lot about ourselves and our photography in the process.