I see things. Not dead people, but figures, shapes and other things nevertheless. What is more, to me, they are as real as the glass of water I have just drunk.
In my head I see vivid images playing back life experiences but often with the outcomes changed. I also create fantasy worlds with the main character being me. My inner voice makes the images seem more real. Sometimes for the better, but others not. These images occasionally need short periods of medical control, but normally I can manage myself. This is where photography steps in for me. Photography has always been a way of providing new mental images. A means of removing the bad and negative, replacing them with things I can cope with and allow me to live my life.
What I had not realised, until recently, is exactly how my imagination feeds the images I take and vice versa. I have a flare for the dramatic and whimsical in most things I do and I believe this can be seen in most images I take. They are an extension of my personality if you like. And I love it.
Writing the above came easy to me, you may be laughing to yourself thinking I am egotistical, self absorbed, or just some crazy wanting self validation. But just like photography, your opinion is subjective.
My photographer’s block started, I guess, some years ago. I never really stopped taking photos but I lost my passion. The emotion within that excited me and made photography as addictive to me as any drug.
Shortly after moving to Barcelona, I discovered Montserrat. A mountain which towers high above its surroundings, some 38km away from Barcelona. It was like discovering a new world. Rocks morphed into faces, figures and forms that replayed over and over in my head. Covered in a blanket of cloud, these images intensified. The problem was projecting what I could see into photos. The harder I tried, the more I seemed to fail. This, along with my need to find a photographic style, stifled my wish to photograph. It held me back.
Then, one day, the unthinkable happened. My hard drive containing almost every photo I have ever taken broke. Then the two back up hard drives broke. All within 5 minutes of each other. My flare for the overdramatic exploded into a fit of rage aimed at myself. Images in my head of life experiences turned into negative, nightmare scenarios. The fantasy worlds I had created for myself imploded and I promised my wife I would never pick up another camera. Much to her dismay.
Without telling me, my wife took the hard drives to a specialist who was able to recover many of the images, but they no longer had any order. Nearly two hundred thousand photos shown in a random sequence. Added to this was a further 50,000 images I had collected from other photographers for reference. Although I did not realise it, my photographer’s block was complete.
I went back on my promise to never pick up a camera, partly due to my wife’s encouragement, but my heart was not in it. All the images I took appeared to have no reason and were pointless in my head.
In March of this year one of my biggest fears, being confined to a space, came true. All thanks to Covid 19. I arrived home from work on March 13th as normal, only to wake up the next day to discover I wasn’t able to leave the confines of my apartment. As the days turned into weeks, I became more introvert and withdrawn. Dark images started to fill my head as the confinement took hold and the first of four people I knew passed away. If it was not for my wife, I’m not sure I would not be here now. There you go, an example of my flare for the dramatic.
One day in April, my wife sat me down to break some delicate news to me. She smiled nervously as she told me she had created a website of my photos. I did not reply, I just looked at what she had done. Many of my photos were there, crying for me to take an interest. The photos spoke to me metaphorically and with that, something stirred within. A feeling deep down that I could not explain. The memories of why I took the photos started to battle with negative images in my head and I felt a hint of passion returning. Over the weeks that followed I made some alterations to my site, still not completely satisfied it portrayed what I wanted it to show, but ever grateful to my wife for her push.
I started to discuss plans with her to purchase some second hand camera equipment which could be of use to us both. A 100 – 400mm lens, Canon 5d mark III and a 24-70mm lens for my wife.
We then organised a trip locally where we could start photographing again. The trip will be the subject of another story in the near future.
We returned to Montserrat, where the shapes and forms returned, battling with the images of darkness within. This time, however, the 100 – 400mm lens enabled me to zoom in on shapes and figures as I saw them, as opposed to needing to move closer over difficult terrain, which risked a change in light and the forms being lost. I felt a release inside, my stomach churned with excitement and the wish not to return to reality took over as it had done so many times in the past.
Then, I started using Youpic as a way of showing some of the images and establishing if any one else liked what I had done. I also entered my first international photographic competition. As part of it I requested a review of the images. The response I got was totally unexpected. It was as if the reviewer was partly describing me as a person. Whimsical, dramatic and other adjectives, were used. Then it hit me. I had been searching for a style, a theme even, within my photography and I had never found it. But it was there all along. When a member of Youpic left a comment on one of my pictures saying he saw “a monkey like sphinx”, I knew I wasn’t alone. My images were portraying something to people.
I’m now considering my next move. I’m considering how to change my website once more in order to project my images better to any viewer. I’m contemplating restarting a project about Montserrat, which I began a few years ago. I even have a name and theme. I’m chewing over ideas on how I can turn my passion for photography into a career where I can survive financially and continue to create fantasy worlds in my head. My search to take the perfect picture for me is once more alive and kicking.
On reflection, my loss of passion for photography was the best thing that could have happened. I was becoming disillusioned with continuously taking photos for other people, in a style they imposed. The break my loss of passion gave me, allowed me to view my photos again in a new light, even if it did need the assistance of Covid, a gentle push from my wife, a review from an unknown stranger and a comment from a Youpic member.
Although I’m frightened about loosing my passion once more, this fear is easing as I’m sure any loss will only be temporary. Photography is too important to me, as it maybe to you.