Jonny Bell Photography | Does Photography have to be so boring

Does Photography have to be so boring

July 27, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Subjectivity is a constant in visual art, indeed all creative practice. The practice of photography is of interest, both to the creator and an audience, subjectively as an audience we assess 1. Interesting 2. Not interesting - with a varying spectrum and far more indulged and flowerful language, emotion and consideration. However I feel Chris Friel is right to ask the question of what might be considered boring in photgraphic practice?

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I have no interest in discussing, commenting, or critiquing other photographers work or practice, but in considering an opinion on what drives us to create photographic imagery, whether this be as a single or in a mixed medium. Personally my own practice owes a great debt to Chris Friel. Perhaps 3 or 4 years ago now I stumbled across one of his images in a Landscape Photographer of the Year volume (I believe it was the image below, but if not very similar and I like this one anyway). 


It was a little bit of a eureka moment for me.

I can only speak from my own experiences. I had started my creative and visual life as a painter and obsessive drawer, whilst accepted into an art school I lasted roughly a term or so. This faliure to engage and complete a study of art and creativity was a seminal moment for me, and one I didn't fully appreciate until I was much older.

I spent many years seeking outlets for my need to be creative, even an eventful and enlightening period as an environmental activist did not suffice, eventually photography began to fill my own needs to create. I became an avid consumer of photography magazines, striving to perfect, sharp, intricately composed imagery. My subject was mainly landscape and my environment. Improving quickly, a couple of shortlists for various competitions, some good responses to magazine submissions, and indeed a reasonable substitue income from some stock agencies, but I was beginning to dry up, seeking better and more sensational subjects, perhaps ultimately in an attempt to achieve more sensational results, but questionably not imagery?

Then for a number of years I produced very little photographic output, indeed one year I believe I didn't pick up a camera for creative or enjoyment purposes. Until a few years ago I began easing myself back into photography, still with a pervading feeling of stagnation persiting, it didn't feel important, vital, necessary, all things that creativity must be for the creator, but Chris's image, and subsequently his work, helped to change this, significantly.

My professional life, or career if you wish, has been entirley unconventional, I followed none of the paths I either believed I would, nor that others suggested. I positively rejected convention. So why did I feel tied or restricted to convention in my creative work? to the tried and tested formulas of photographic practice, at times reproduced almost as mantras within the pages of the photographic magazines and coffee table books? Chris' single image immediately struck me amoungst the incredibly well composed, strikingly sharp, beautifully coloured images in the LPOTY volume, it was in its' context unique.

Great photographers, and for example Ansel Adams, push the boundaries of their contemporaries. Adams was able to lift photography from a recording context, a poor neighbour of the 'Artist', and scientific experiment into a creative practice, translating his emotional responses to his subjects to stimulate highly emotional responses from his audiences. Adams in particular followed, indeed developed, a highly structured process for achieving these results which endures today. But what great image makers, including Adams, did not do, is reproduce - they made. Inventing new practices, breaking structures of conventional restraint, enduring because they were of their time, not seeking simply to rework existing approaches.

My point being that Chris Friel has helped and enabled me to move beyond my own self imposed conventions, learnt and parroted. As a contemporary image maker he is of his time, his brokendown, disintegrated, deconstructed, and reformed subjects are embued with soliditiy, frailty, mass, texture, and extreme juxtapositions of tone and shape, at times bold in their reforming and others meer ghosts and smeers of their original states, they are compelling imagery. I feel I, and sense many others, have in the past strived for something that ultimately makes us the same, perhaps a want or need to be accepted by an orthodoxy. Chris challenges this, uniquely.

It is not that I wish to distinguish myself as somehow above, that I judge conventional photographic imagery as less worthy, nor that much of the exceptional images produced are not of value as creative endeavours. But it is that for me personally I wish to try and push the boundaries of convention within my photographic practice, my own journey has focused on some of the technical barriers to expression I face, building a new language of imagery, that I hope and trust will eventually enable me to express with more vitality, to absorb and re-create.

I wish to shake off the boring, as Chris' statement seeks to question, to challenge the conventions that hold us, photography, and creativity back, to inspire and engage with others to do similarly, but not to sit in judgement of others and their journeys in creativity, I accept my own subjectivity.

Ultimately I feel we should all strive to be a little less boring. to embrace the playful and inventive, and to experiment and create without fear and or imposed boundary - whether these be our own or those of others.

Thanks for reading. All the best Jonny.



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