All you need is … INSTAGRAM

Screenshot 2017-02-26 14.15.04


Everyone knows that as a photographer you HAVE to be on INSTAGRAM .. right ? It's where all those Art Directors are tirelessly scouring through all the dross, just to find your amazing images and commission you for that dream job. It's a 'vibrant' and 'engaging' community and there's a hundred stories of the guy who snapped apples on his desk.. now he travels the world making a mint shooting for National Geographic. Except.. I have a feeling that it's all a load of Trump.

I use the three social media platforms that I engage with very differently. Facebook is for new work, and promotion and it’s great for that with proven results. Twitter, I can hardly use but post the occasional thing that in my head I think is hilarious and sometimes at least one person agrees with me. But Instagram is the one which I felt I was ignoring at my peril and being left behind on. So I’ve jumped in, and out, and in again. I’m firmly in at the moment and I’m actually enjoying giving new life to a huge back catalog of images, some good, some ordinary and some perfect Instagrams.

What I like about it is the casual nature of the whole platform, it’s more informal than Facebook and I don’t spend so much time corresponding with others or being weighed down by comments etc. ( probably doing that wrong !) But as I’ve been spending more time on there lately I’ve begun to question the whole point of it and how genuine it really is.

Now this is not meant to sound like sour grapes in any way for me having a mere 700 followers, with an average of 100 interactions on a post. I actually think 100, is pretty good if you think about. If you could have a pop up exhibition in a shopping centre , unannounced and 100 people turned up to view the work, you’d be very happy !

But you can’t help be sucked into watching that counter of Follower numbers and wonder what you have to do to increase that. The simple answer it seems is to buy them. I had no idea such a thing existed but having spent only a short time looking at this.. it’s clear it’s actually endemic. It seems Instagram is about one thing and one thing only, followers and that to me seems a real shame as it really is a great platform for discovering photography.

Once I post an image now, I instantly get those ‘ Want Followers’ comments and ‘ Check My Page’ etc. I have no idea how that works, but it’s clear that some people are willing to find out and hey presto 10 K followers just like that. With that comes all the glory, respect and rewards that comes with that level of achievement or not ? Well it seems that in some cases yes but for most surely it’s a completely empty and hollow status, at least for me it would be.

Along with the above, you then get likes from random but seemingly very respectable accounts. This morning I had a one from a photographer with over 60K followers. Cool.. but let me just check. One click on his followers list reveals and endless list of clearly fake followers.
Like the guy above, whose account of a handful of mediocre selfies has 10K followers itself. So did he actually like my image or is that automated too ?

Unless Instagram can actually verify properly the number of followers an account has are genuine, remove all fake accounts and make it all verifiable they should just simply remove that counter .. but then again what’s the point if no one can see how popular you are !

It seems there is an endless amount of world travellers out there, all sharing over saturated views from tourist viewing platforms, popping in there arms raised and accompanied by their partner looking out at the vista wistfully.. that desperately need for everyone to know this, so desperate they’re willing to buy the attention. I think ultimately that will be it’s downfall.

Photographer unplugged..


It seems a lot longer but around 6 years ago I posted my first landscape image on to my relatively new Facebook account with a mixture of embarrassment, dread and curiosity. In relative terms only a very few people had seen my work, in small exhibitions and personal showings etc. Then suddenly with a few clicks of a mouse you have a whole world ready to see your latest and greatest creation and give you the coveted like or even better share and comment on it. There’s absolutely no doubt that it was an instantly positive thing for me and I embraced it and enjoyed the interaction with a growing number of friends and followers etc. I’m no ego maniac however, and never had any intention of taking kind wishes by friends and family members as a true indicator of the standard of my work, but it was nice to just show them, this is what I’m up to, this is what’s really important to me. Unintentionally it had the effect of getting me out there and creating more work, not necessarily for the ‘ likes’ but more to keep that profile as me being a photographer fulfilled , even if my real ambitions for that weren’t in real life.

Feedback was instant and affirming, albeit initially small, but as long as I retained my healthy dose of cynicism and didn’t loose the run of myself, I was happy to continue the experiment and see which images garnered different types of reactions and basically which images people thought were any good. I had been trying and failing woefully to produce a website for an embarrassing 10 years previously. Starting when I could count the number of photographers websites in Ireland on one hand, tediously trying to learn html coding, then Dreamweaver, then realising I didn’t have the ridiculous amounts that were being sought by web developers to do the job properly during the dot com boom, and so it went on and on.

Then this new idea of social media and the ease of it became something so simple with real feedback came along, which didn’t require a degree in analytics to understand, and it changed everything. Suddenly you’re out there and so is your work. To be liked, judged, ignored, copied and even stolen. I’ve had all of these and still I find myself uploading and sharing new work that these days takes a lot of thought, time and effort. The reasons for doing so were always clear, the shameless self promotion and endless feed of how great you are , all served the purpose of getting my work out there, getting it printed, getting it purchased , getting more work. It’s free, it’s easy, it’s fairly harmless so what could possibly go wrong ?

I’ve never understood it when I’ve heard other photographers say ‘ I don’t look at other photographer’s work ‘ , to me that’s like a musician saying he doesn’t buy records. I’ve always taken great pleasure in viewing other’s work, whether that’s from books, exhibitions, well produced articles or online. There’s nothing wrong in looking at someone’s work you admire and getting some inspiration , even the odd idea, as long as you’re not going out to simply recreate what you’ve seen and try to emulate what someone else was thinking in making an image. I have an ever growing library of photo books which for me has always been the best way to view work, that I turn to for inspiration a lot of the time. The unexpected issue with being so connected online, having new ‘ friends ‘ everyday and ‘ liking ‘ more pages.. is that suddenly you’re no longer in control of the amount, type and quality of photography you’re exposed to.

There’s a lot of good stuff, but there’s an endless stream of thousands of image per day in my feed that began to feel like overload. I was, for quite a while one of those people who tried to balance the input and feedback on my work with doing the same on others. It’s not called ‘ social media ‘ for nothing. But this very quickly became overwhelming, time consuming and then simply repetitive. I found myself hitting a like button on the same few photographers, ignoring others, replying to the first few comments etc. Wondering why someone would request you as a friend and then never interact in the slightest way with you, is possibly the most ridiculous waste of time and thought ever invented for humans !

It seems to reap the benefits of social media , you have to put up with a lot of the negatives and they’re just part and parcel of this new way of being a photographer, online. If you’re not online then what are you ? The answer is a photographer. It shouldn’t make a difference, but if you’re not telling everyone what you’re doing are you doing anything at all ? Of course you are and there are many great photographers out there producing work of real quality and meaning that wouldn’t know how to create a Facebook memory if you paid them. I think I’ve been secretly jealous of them for quite some time.

When I studied photography in college we worked on projects which were eventually presented as a final, finished work. I remember that great buzz in seeing what others had been up to all this time and also showing my work in finished, and always printed format. The ‘ reveal ‘. Now as I’m working on a book project that I feel is far more personal and important that my previous one, I find my self letting the pages of my book fly open online before it’s finished, before I even know where it’s going or if indeed it’s what I want people to see.

The excitement of being in full creative flow and realising you could be producing something worthwhile seems to be tinged with the expectation of sharing it. It seems absurd to be even casually looking at your phone when out working in solitude in the beautiful surroundings that would have most people jealous. And then you realise it’s become a habit and you’re not even sure if it’s a good one or why you’re doing it.

I’ve seen photographers take a break from all online activity before which I always admired and thought would be worthwhile exercise to do at some point. Now, as the gallery season is slowing down, and I’m at that crucial stage of finalising a direction for this project , this seems like a perfect time to wind it down for a while. I mean no disrespect to all those who take the time to follow my work online and who have been a great source of support and encouragement over the years and to all my fellow contected photographers but I’m curious to see what effect unplugging will have, if any at all. Seeing as how I barely know how to use it, and I enjoy photographing my set ups, I might keep the old Instagram thing going.. just so you know I’m still there :-)

See you all in the new year.. keep it country.

The Great Leap Forward



So today is quiet a significant one for me, as I stand on my own, now fully self-employed and solely making a living from one of my biggest passions in life, photography. I’m sure there will be a moment soon when it will sink in and I realise all the responsibilities and hurdles that might lay ahead but I think that will pale into insignificance when the full implication of how lucky I am to be doing something I love, especially landscape work, in a place that’s so beautiful at a great time in my life.

For many of you who’ve followed my work from my first forays into sharing online, to publishing my first book to recently opening my gallery.. I’m sure the assumption was understandably made that I was in a full time photographer. How else would I get the time for anything else ?? But a lot of you know that for a long time I’ve been even more fortunate to have a well paid full-time position with a photo agency in Dublin, for whom I managed their commercial business.. all from the comfort of my own home, and occasionally from the comfort of the top of a mountain !

Having an income from something that was very flexible and within the area of photography was a perfect fit for a lot things but as my own work started to grow and the potential opportunities kept coming , there was very little elbow room left. A long standing positive relationship became strained and although I opted to take a pay cut and work on a reduced week, the situation remained to be a negative one. Being financially rewarded for something that is simply never going to make you happy or give you real satisfaction in life is something that I know a lot of people have to face day in day out. But for me I’ve always wanted to test myself by being creative and making a living from it. I was never one for rash impulsiveness though, and so I bided my time until the overwhelming positives of working for myself far outweighed the restriction and seemingly pointless pursuit of remaining in a job that I had outlived.

So now here I am over 20 years after leaving art college with my photography qualification I am now technically a ‘professional photographer’. Of course I’ve always been a photographer but never really used the term with regard to defining what I did, especially for a living. However from my very first early freelance jobs , to the first sales of my landscape work to now owning a busy gallery I have always done what I did with from a professional viewpoint. I never felt it was every a hobby and the label of ‘ amateur photographer ‘ just never seemed to fit. I’ve pursued my route to where I am today at glacial speed but have done so with huge benefits, the label never really mattered.

Last year I listened to a talk from a UK photographer called David Clapp who spoke about easing gently out of one career into being a photographer, no risks, dramas or shocks. Slowly winding down one job whilst developing the one he always wanted. I thought, that’s me and felt a little bit better about how risk averse I was. But you need something to give you a bit of push and for me it was the opportunity that presented itself to open a gallery for my own work. Something which had been my number one ambition from day one.

The success of the gallery and the confidence I have gained from such positive feedback was the final piece in the jigsaw and when you find yourself in the middle of the golden opportunity that you’ve always wanted, you have to go for it with all you’ve got.

The security of the pay cheque is gone, but the excitement and possibilities of building something for yourself that provides you with a living and also a fantastic creative outlet, will hopefully smooth over the bumps and make the lean times pass a bit faster.

The moment will come when it’ll sink in, it might be on a beach or up a mountain, definitely somewhere I’ll feel lucky to be .. I’ll enjoy it and never look back , one view at a time.

Shoot the moon

2 years ago, I set off from home at 4am bound for Ballinskelligs Bay to make an image I’d tried to do for the previous 2 years without success. On both previous attempts I was thwarted by clouds and this morning wasn’t looking any more promising. When I arrived things were looking bad, it was still dark but there was a fierce wind blowing , some rain and I realised my chosen location wasn’t going to work at all after all this time.

The image I was looking to make was that of a full moon setting behind the Skellig Islands and was a variation of one which I wanted to make for many years, although not with the Skelligs in mind. In 2011 with the advent of an iphone app that allowed you pinpoint the location and elevation of the moon and sun at any time I made my first attempt. Nothing but a grey cold morning then. The next opportunity the moon was setting further away from the islands but still more clouds. Then in 2012 I noticed that a full moon would be setting directly behind the islands at the perfect time just before sunrise. All I needed was some kind of clear skies.

Having realised that morning I was in the wrong place, I made the decision to drive back down south to St. Finians Bay. As I drove, the clouds broke revealing an amazing scene and the light in the sky began to grow with the approaching sunrise. Driving without care for myself or most of the sheep on the road, I made it down to the beach and ran to position only to see the clouds roll in again. I cursed my luck and I couldn’t see whether it would change or not as the twilight wasn’t revealing the clouds enough to show any gaps. Then without warning they parted and the moon began to tantalisingly appear and hide again. I set up my composition and for the next 10 or so minutes waited for the perfect moment.

Rarely is my photography about a perfect moment, but this was going to be an exception. At 6.14 the clouds parted long enough for me to make one single further exposure with the moon completely visible, and minutes later the magical scene was gone. It was very windy, I was on sand and hand’t time to steady my tripod, so my next thought was ‘Is it sharp ?’ .. thankfully it was and I could enjoy the next half hour on the beach with my flask of coffee, feeling I had captured something special.

It was a moment, and scene that I was happy to share with many, through social media and getting picked up by online press, later that day thousands had seen the image and the reaction was great from everyone. Well, almost everyone. For most people they took the image and description of what it was at face value and admired the beauty of this natural spectacle. For others though they decided that it was far less likely that I witnessed and photographed such a scene, and instead it was something that came from the one place people with very little knowledge of photography know.. ‘ Photoshop’

I’m acutely aware that one you share something on social media you will have varying reactions and you can’t please all the people all of the time. I was however, surprised at the reaction and comments of some fellow photographers, which is a bit sad that some were willing to assume that it was somehow faked, rather than accept the image for what it was.. but that’s the times we live in I guess.

At a recent commercial art fair in Dublin, it continued where the image was my most successful seller, but also the one which I spent the most time talking about.. mainly telling people that yes it’s a photograph, yes it’s real, and no I didn’t put the moon in there.

I can understand it to a certain degree, and what I’ve realised now is that the story of that morning when told.. ( and it’s getting more dramatic every time ) is a great way to connect the viewer to the image and it continues to be one of my best selling images in the new gallery.

The final print needed very little processing which is always my preference, I had underexposed slightly to make sure I had detail in the moon, combined with a slow shutter speed of 1.0 second to blur the wave and f16 to ensure the main elements were in focus. I rarely used the telephoto lens back then, but it was the only option here, zooming in full at 200mm for the decisive moment.

Just in case you’re still not convinced I thought I’d publish a grab of the raw files, the position of the moon on the morning in question .. for all the doubters !

Interviewed for SEAMLESS – Be Inspired Podcast


I was interviewed for the Seamlessphoto 'Be Inspired Podcast' this week. We chat about the landscape, photography and my journey with both... have a listen

Keep in touch !

Interview for RTE Radio 1 – Podcast

Recently RTE Radio 1 came down to Killarney and we recorded an interview out in the park for the Mooney Show's ' Mooney Goes Wild' section. I had expected a 2 minute snippet with some deft editing cutting it all down, but I was delighted to listed to the piece go out on the national airwaves for a full 13 min segment on a Friday afternoon.

RTE RADIO 1 - Mooney Show Interview

Have a listen to the podcast on the link below ...

A little bit more .. about this book !

5 years ago while walking the route from Galway’s Bridge down to Lord Brandon’s cottage for the first time, I had the idea for this book. I wasn’t actively searching for a subject or a project but as I walked along the trail I began to realise that there was far more to this place than I thought. Having viewed this part of the park hundreds of times from the road above, I had never yet explored the areas below on foot properly and it was a revelation. From looking at the map there and then, I could now see an endless list of trails, mountains, remote woods and valleys that were all great potential locations. Enough of them to fill a book I thought, and so the idea was born.

I mulled it over in my head for about a year before deciding to do some research on what type of books had been done before and to see what I could offer to the pile there surely was. To my amazement there were none, at least not in print anyway. The only book I have come across on the National Park has been out of print for 10 years and was more a text compendium of a few different writers. It’s an excellent book and I eventually got a copy from a dealer in the UK but that was it. There was another one, which was a study on the Wild Red Deer, again an excellent book, but nothing resembling a photographic book on what is surely one of Ireland’s most famous landscapes.


I thought about why there were none published before and it was puzzling. I quickly decided that I was going to be lucky to be the first to do this rather than another who tried and came up against some obvious reason not to. Although a lot has changed in the photo-book publishing world now, five years ago the only realistic way to do this was to secure a deal with a publisher. That meant they pay for the production of the book and you get a small royalty per copy, and by small I mean tiny ! I wasn’t doing this for the money, and I wanted the book to be published on it’s own merits rather than as a vanity-paid-for-publishing project so it made sense to me. Easier said than done however, as I quickly discovered that the vast majority of photographers who approach publishers in Ireland are rejected. However after one meeting I came out with a deal and was ecstatic! I started shooting with renewed purpose two days later and devoted every spare moment for the next two years to producing some of my best work in years.

The defined focus of the project and the growing understanding and relationship I was forming with the place, started to pay off with some early images that were hugely encouraging. All I had to do was repeat that effort to fill 164 more pages and I was done! There more I hiked around the park and the more I realised that certain shots were only possible for a small window each year, the bigger the project grew. Initially I had a very ambitious shot list that included not just the landscape but also portraits of park staff, residents and visitors. I wanted to shoot all the flora and fauna with a full section on the White Tailed Eagles and also to capture the various activities that take place in the park throughout the year. That all had to be scaled back and the focus was quickly set on the main reason that the park even exists and why so many visit it, it’s landscape.

I briefed the publisher early on that I felt all the other shots would be completely overshadowed by and not sit well with the dramatic landscape images. Not a problem.. carry on. Into year two of my dream project and my focus narrowed even more. I looked at shots taken in the park from a variety of sources, I had to take better ones, different ones, I had to make that scene mine.

I attended a book-making workshop over three days in London and it was a real eye opener. Gone were close ups, black and whites, uprights and basically anything that didn’t fit into what was truly my view of the park and not everyone else’s. I came back from London with half the images I was sure were going in, now consigned to the reject pile and I had a lot of work to do. But heading out now with an even clearer vision of what I wanted was a real boost and if I was enjoying this before, I was loving it now.


I’ve spent a lifetime watching nature documentaries and enjoy them all the more now when you get to see the little segments at the end that show how scenes were shot and interviews with the filmmakers. The one thing that always strikes me is that they must surely have to be in a complete state of peace and harmony with their surroundings to endure what they do, they look like they are and when that happens then they get their shots. To an obvious lesser degree that was how I now felt on many occasions when I knew I would have felt differently before. In driving wind and rain or freezing cold I often found myself sitting on the side of mountain or in the middle of a bog, blissfully unaware of how uncomfortable, tired or hungry I should be. I now knew the key was to tune all of those things out and to tune into my surroundings as much as possible. The times spent out there with the camera remaining in the bag began to grow, and I was no longer in some mad hurry the moment I crested a ridge or when the sunlight broke through to start taking pictures. I gave equal time to enjoying being there as I did to working and I feel this was one of the most important parts of ensuring any success.

tentI had swapped a social life for a fairly solitary one, and I loved it. It’s lucky I enjoy being out alone, or I would have gone slightly mad in the process. I quickly turned into a park nerd and would find any opportunity to tell anyone who’d listen about some latest fact I’d learned or some new route discovered. I spent a couple of months each year where I saw more of the red deer than I did my family at times and I could drive the route over from my home blindfolded. I camped out on the summit of Purple Mountain in a freezing storm, googling ‘ symptons of hypothermia’ on my phone hoping the tent would not blow away, and then emerged to the most beautiful morning you could imagine. I had a few close calls on summits and endured many soakings, cuts and bruises, often reaching the car again with a huge sigh of relief. Standing in flowing rivers my gear led a more charmed life, so when I slipped and fell it somehow survived. Bog holes do exist, and I got to know a couple intimately. For every weekend spent out shooting, there were four or five weeknights spent editing. It was non stop and addictive.

Most of this was done in a period of three years where I hardly ever met another soul, now that’s a special place ! I reached the end stages of the project with only one set of shots left to get that I wanted. 2 years earlier during the big freeze, the park was transformed into something completely magical. I climbed Mangerton in near waist high snow with friends and we drove back through the park, which was actually closed to traffic for a number of days. It wasn’t a photography trip but I later deeply regretted not getting out there more and so now was praying for the temperatures to drop and snow to arrive. Eventually it did and over the course of three days I spent long hard days out from dawn till dusk and it was incredible. I was done more or less, and so with a careful edit and some room for editor’s picks, I sent the work off to the publisher confident the presses would be rolling in a few months. Nothing rolled. Sensing some mysterious need to populate a landscape photographer’s book with people, the publisher requested some jolly shots of people pointing at things and sharing sandwiches, lots of them. With Al Gore like science, I was informed that X amount of people = X amount of books sold. I should have been photographing dole queues, we would have all been millionaires. To my horror I began to think I may have just wasted three years of my life and a few dark days ensued. Bizarrely the only thing to take my mind off was to go for a hike.. in the park! I spoke to a friend who turned this on it’s head and pointed out that if the publisher had said no three years ago, I’d have no book.. I now had a book I just had to find a way to publish it. One shredded contract later and I was off again. The timetable was extended, which meant more shooting time and I now had to find a way and more importantly a real reason to take the risk of self-publishing it.

I ploughed on and have done my best to make the finished product worthy of one that will represent such as incredible place. I hope I do it justice. I hope that for the most part I have remained true to what I set out to do. I hope that if possible you’ll see more than photographs in this book and that there’s some kind of cumulative effect at the end, which leaves you with an impression of the park itself. I’m sure it could only be a positive one.

This is why and some of how I’m publishing this book. As I’ve said briefly before I decided not to go down the crowd funding route and present a project with an implied risk of it not going ahead. I was too far down the road for that, and I couldn’t in all honesty pretend that I needed your help or it wouldn’t see the light of day. I may do one, one day but won’t spend three years working on it first !   The book is now available to purchase online from the link below..  thanks  Norman



Darkness at the hedge of town

One fine day in college, during bouts of near starvation and horrendous fashion choices I got some cheery news in one of our lectures.. ” Everything has already been photographed “, followed by ” it’s highly unlikely any of you will take a truly original photograph… ever“.  That was 18 years ago, long before Facebook and Instagram were bombarding us with a million images a second.  Once it sunk in though, I realised that of course our lecturer was right, it wasn’t meant to discourage us, it was just a reality check. To be honest it’s about one of the only things that I learned studying photography that has stayed with me and that comes to mind every time I think I’m on the verge of greatness!

As a landscape photographer you have a bit more scope than maybe a portrait photographer but they might argue the opposite. It’s a big world out there and there are infinite views and days with ever changing light and conditions. Almost every landscape photographer ‘ aspires to relate to the viewer the sense of being there’ etc.. we’re all guilty of saying that somewhere, and for me I do too.. does it work, maybe? I know I mean it, but am guilty of doing the opposite, at times making an image that makes it impossible for a viewer to know what it was like, such as a long exposure etc. But is there any point in presenting a viewer with an image that they’ve probably seen a hundred times before, with your own subtle slant on it that they simply won’t notice? When should a scene be retired, and a big sign saying ‘ Sorry mate it’s been done to death’ driven into the ground there and then to prevent further online postings of yet another shot of those bloody Dark Hedges !! Or Fanad Lighthouse, or the Cliffs of Moher , Giants Causeway, etc..

A few weeks ago I set off on a trip around the Ring of Kerry, I live on it.. and had never actually driven right around it in one go.. I tend to veer off a lot. In the evening I found myself on Rossbeigh beach, I thought of shooting the sand dunes in the evening light but it wasn’t working so I made my way down to the beach and found myself at a crime scene. The Sunbeam Shipwreck.. I never knew where this thing was, but have seen it a hundred times. It’s kind of interesting and I knew all about it, thanks to the need for some photographers to be historians with a full breakdown of the night it went down and how the ships cat was saved.   So did I walk on and ignore this cliché of clichés ? Nope.. I spent the next hour, taking nice shots of of the surf breaking over the timbers , working away until it was time to go. Walking back to the car, I felt like I’d just being caught dancing to Abba in my bedroom or something equally shameful… after so many times thinking those hedges should be cut down and that boat rebuilt to save us all.. I’d just gone and added to the pile. I looked at the shots the next day in a fairly depressed manner, they were nice, good even.. but what was the point? They were exactly the same as a ton of other shots out there, nothing new, and so destined to never see the light of day.

Now don’t get me wrong, you can’t avoid every well photographed scene and area, and I have many a shot that will stay in my portfolio that I’m sure are replicated in other photographers. I live and mainly photograph in an area that is regularly blitzed by photographers, I choose to photograph locally and always will because it means something different to me than another photographer.  But it depresses me to see photographers deliberately setting out to photograph something like this, the exact same way as they just viewed online earlier. It’s a bit like workshops, where you have a dozen people lined up side by side shooting the exact same thing. I’ve come across this myself and it always baffles me, what are they hoping to achieve.. shouldn’t there at least be someone facing the other way trying something different ?

This issue was highlighted in a post by David Ward referencing the shot below of an army of photographers all waiting to get the same shot, even though the photographer Dale Keller was probably there to do the same thing, at least he stood back and took something different !

Dale Keller's image of photographers jostling for position.

© Dale Keller : Dale Keller’s image of photographers jostling for position.

Why is photography turning into replication, rather than creation. Has everything really been photographed already and are we all just going around doing it again ? Does anyone care or is it just as important to bag them , than go without them ?

Back to the clichés.. and they’re on my mind a lot because this last weekend I spent the early part of Saturday in a bluebell forest, then all of Sunday on the Dingle Peninsula. I spent a lot more time trying to avoid the obvious shots in the bluebell woods than actually making images and on Sunday I set off for a days photography in weather you wouldn’t put the Sunbeam’s cat out in. I knew I was driving to locations that not only had been photographed countless times by other photographers, but also by me, but the bad weather and complete lack of light was going to challenge me and that’s what had me buzzing all day. Even though I spent most of it peering out through the windscreen, when I got to make some images I did so with a creative will to see it differently this time, the weather was influencing things for sure and perhaps half the time I was successful, the rest I’m sure others have made better and may or may not ever get used. We all will have unavoidable references in our heads, either from our own previous shoots or work we have seen, that’s fine and in some cases I’d encourage it, but seeking out the exact spot to shoot in the exact style in the hope of making the same image as someone else before is just missing the point..

Things I Love To Hate about Photography.. No. 1 ‘ Award Winning ‘

With the best of intentions to make writing a blog entry even slightly worthwhile, I’m going to try something radical.. and offer an opinion that isn’t cut and pasted from PetaPixel. This’ll probably last a day or so until I run of out of things to give out about. Then I’ll fall in line with the rest of the online photo love in and say how amazing everything really is ..

So, this photography lark, it’s great isn’t it? What’s more it’s now exploded to a level of popularity and accessibility that it’s hard to avoid photographers.. which is just brilliant right ? Well no, it’s not actually, it’s not all good. Put it this way, we’re fortunate that Formula One isn’t as easy to get into these days, otherwise we’d literally have an endless stream of awful car crashes ruining everyone’s day. Instead though, we have photographic car crashes that are everywhere and becoming harder to avoid. Hard, because I like looking at photography, I don’t understand some photographers who say they don’t look at other peoples images, why the hell not ? Images have always fascinated me and I’m not talking about my own, I seek out and view other photographers work, not for pointers or inspiration, but because it’s my passion and I love photography.. but not all of it and not some of the new aspects of our craft / art.

15 years ago when I started work in the sports photography agency Inpho, I had access to the internet for the first time and realised that I could now easily look up and discover photographers from all over the world. It was fantastic, I discovered people like Michael Kenna, Raymond Meeks, David Michael Kennedy and of course I could look up the others I already knew about. It was all good, and that was the point. If you were an established photographer, and you were good enough you paid someone a lot of money to build you a website and it was a measure of your stature. Slowly the idea of an ‘online portfolio’ instead of those big black ugly cases started catching on, and the aspiring photographer who was slightly ahead of the game took advantage of this new medium. It was still though relatively reserved for those photographers, who actually were photographers. Fast forward to today and it’s hard to tell who’s what these days. Everyone has a website, Facebook page, twitter, piccasa, flickr, etc.. page. We’re all elbowing for room on this ridiculously packed digital showreel train, vying for likes, comments, shares and traffic. ( Who’d have every thought that the words traffic and photography could be so intermingled ? )

Which leads me on to the point of this blog entry, and the first in my series of mini rants about Things I love to hate about photography !! . The first one goes to the use of two words ‘ Award Winning’. I don’t know why it grates on me so much when I see this in the first line on the first page of so many photographers intros, example … ” Timmy Tmax is an award winning photographer..” But hang on, don’t keep us in suspense, tell us about the awards, what are they ? Are they that good that you don’t go on to mention them in any detail ? Is it that two of them are for the Tubercurry Under 10’s happy snap competition ? Are they awards from your local camera club, or maybe even a really prestigious online competition in Botswana ?

Why mention them at all ?? It’s a visual medium. You are about to show everyone exactly what type of photographer you are on your website. Surely it’s not that an outdated idea to let your work speak for itself, instead of you speaking in overblown terms for it. There are so many award winning photographers out there today, we should have a parade, probably monthly to honour them. That way they wouldn’t have to announce to the world in their first five words about themselves that they are award winning. It probably meant something once, but my feeling which is obviously open to arguement , ridicule and abuse is that it’s now lost all effect. If you have won something that sets you apart from others, then say it in a none cliched way somewhere other than line one. Anyone who actually reads your bio, will actually be interested in your work, most others have been shoved on to your page by bouncers from Google or Facebook and want to get out as quick as their mouse can carry them.

So if there was a Room 101 for photography.. I’d shove the words’ Award Winning’ in there.. and ban them from intro’s for ever.