In my 13th year, on a warm day in spring, I remember an English class that in hindsight was possibly the most influential English class I ever had.
Our teacher, Mr Evans, was a tall Welshman with dark flowing locks, a handlebar moustache. He seemed to own just one navy suit, shiny from years of ironing, and accessorised this with a belt that looked older than him, always worn with the buckle round on one side, rather than at the front. He spoke with a glorious deep rich baritone, straight from the valleys.
Listening to him read out loud was a joy, not just because of that voice, but also because he would imbue different characters with different accents as he relayed the stories.
This brought them alive so much more than using the same voice throughout.
I can still hear his voice in my head now, the way he pronounced Summer Of My German Soldier as soul-dee-yer, as opposed to the more common sol-jer of our local dialect.
On this particular day we were asked to read poems we’d been set as an exercise, and mine was singled out as one worth hearing.
It was called The Hunter, and centred on the dual role of a lioness, being both a hunter of her own prey, then herself becoming hunted by mankind.
I remember standing up to read, a mixture of nervousness and pride, and at the end, Mr Evans pausing for a couple of moments before exclaiming “Magnificent! Please, read it one more time…”
So I did, this time the nervousness slightly abated, and the pride notched up further, but now intermingled with the inevitable sense of embarrassment most shy 13 year olds feel at being publicly praised by a teacher.
I recall previously being told at primary school I had a great imagination and was adept at writing stories, but this experience with Mr Evans was the first I’d realised perhaps I could write a poem too, and even that I wanted to.
If I said this day sparked a poetry writing spree instantly, and I went on to write 17 poems a week for the next decade, I’d be lying.
But when I did come back to poetry some years layer – in my early 20s – this seed had been steadily growing.
Mr Evans, with handful of kind words in just a few moments, had shown me a glimpse of what was possible.
In the meantime my enjoyment of music – for the tunes, but primarily for the lyrics – had been flourishing too, and I’d realised that my musical heroes like Morrissey and Michael Stipe were poets too, and unlike most popular music, their lyric sheets could stand alone as poetry, not simple dumb rhymes to accompany a pretty melody.
I might have gone on to discover more classically recognised poets such as Dylan Thomas and Walt Whitman, but I learned most from Morrissey and Stipe.
The former spun intelligent lyrics with a wide vocabulary, clever rhymes with unusual but always flowing structures and the latter’s featured obscure imagery, fragmented stories, and earthy, colourful, vivid and unusual lines.
Both informed my own writing hugely.
So how does all this relate to photography, and in particular inspiring the future photographer?
Well, any of us who photograph are in a position where we can share our passion with someone who perhaps has not yet been exposed to it.
And I don’t mean just our (or other people’s) offspring.
I was the far side of 30 before I used a camera with the intention of capturing something beautiful, and in school I don’t remember anything remotely photography related being made available to any of us.
As photographers, we have far more to share than just our images.
When we talk with others about why we photograph, what it brings us, what it allows us to be and do that perhaps nothing else in our lives ever has, perhaps we might ignite a tiny spark of something similar in them.
Maybe we could go as far to say we have a responsibility to share our love of photography.
Not to discover the next award winning international photographer, but simply to show people they can explore something they love to do, even if it’s not mainstream, or widely accessible.
For my part, aside from 35hunter (which I hope encourages you to photograph more, and share the images and the experiences), I try to encourage our two oldest children to photograph.
Our daughter (11) has her own little Canon IXUS, which as I found out in January, are capable of fabulous results in a compact and easy to use form.
I’ve tried to instil the basics that means she’ll avoid being frustrated with her pictures (the biggest tip I think you can give any beginner is to hold the camera as still as possible – most people seem to think cameras will magically stabilise any image into perfect sharpness even if you’re waving it all over the place!).
Our middle child (nearly seven) has his older sister’s VTech Kiddicam to play around with, and often asks if he can use whichever camera I’m taking family pics with (most recently a Pentax DSLR that’s old and cheap enough for me to not care if he drops it!).
As they grow, and as our youngest, third, child becomes old enough to take an interest and hold a camera, I hope to continue to encourage photography.
Beyond this, as parents, my wife and I try to spur on and support any keen creative interests – currently piano, bass guitar, ballroom dancing and horse riding in our daughter, and trampolining and ballroom dancing in our older son, with a very recent interest in parkour which we’re starting to explore (which is like taking trampolining to the streets!).
I believe we all deserve to have passions and interests in our lives that we love.
Sometimes we need a little help and guidance finding what they might be.
How about you? How do you inspire the future photographers of the world? Do you feel we have a responsibility to?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
Thanks for looking.
Share this post with someone you think will enjoy it using the buttons below.
See what I’m up to About Now.