Since January this year, I’ve been using Google Photos extensively. Now and then it sends me a message – “On this day in 2014…” and a sample of a few photos I’ve taken back then.
My Google Photo archive is by no means exhaustive (I have thousands more on Flickr, currently set to private since my master reset), but it does encourage me to take a look at older photographs and consider what I was doing then.
Inevitably, the question that follows, is “Am I better photographer today than back then?”
Or put another way, “How have I evolved as a photographer?”
Let me take you back for a moment to introduce you to an old friend and former fellow salsa teacher of mine called Ramon. Originally from Venezuela, he’s lived long enough in the UK to know our ways and curiosities.
And apparently one of the common traits of our culture is to constantly measure, and forever be chasing progress and improvement.
Specifically with salsa, he was bordering on bewildered at how many people who had only been dancing for a matter of weeks, would come up to him and ask when they could go up to the improvers class and then how long after that they could advance to the, er, advanced class.
“Why can’t you English just enjoy dancing?” he’d often ask me, exasperated.
Ramon just dances because he loves dancing. Whilst a very good, and very natural dancer, he has no idea what “level” he is at, nor does he care. It’s purely about the enjoyment.
This point can be equally applied to photography.
Why can’t I just enjoy taking photos? Why do I need some comparison with the former me?
This ever progressive quest is also relavant to the cameras themselves.
Rather than just buy a camera and enjoy shooting the heck out of it (which I actually did used to do with phone cams and my first “proper” camera, a Nikon Coolpix, before the wonder of film blew my head and the possibilities of my camera collection wide open), why buy one, use it for a week, then buy another and try that for a week to see how it compares with the other. Then buy another, and so on.
You can argue that this approach does over time allow us to discover the cameras that suit us best, the invisible gems that step aside and let us photograph most freely.
Three or four years ago I wouldn’t have thought about getting another digital compact camera, or that it could offer me any of the pleasures film photography could. But these days, they do just that, and more.
I couldn’t have got here without the couple of hundred cameras and lenses en route.
Of the eight cameras I now consider my core kit, two are film, five are digital compacts and one is almost, just a bit bigger, the Lumix GF1.
I’m very happy with this collection. I’m also really happy with the best photographs I make these days.
But in all honesty I’m not sure I’m any better a photographer – or the photographs are any more accomplished – than seven or eight years ago when I was using phone cams and that Nikon Coolpix.
Should I care? Or should I just appreciate and enjoy using these wonderful little machines to continue hunting for beauty?
I think we both know the answer.
How about you? How often do you review older photographs and compare with your recent best? What about cameras – do you constantly compare and review, or just get down to using and enjoying one?
Please let us know in the comments below (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what my photography life looks like right now.