As is often the way with my writing here, an idea or title I start out with for a blog post ends up going off at a tangent, and I have a bonus piece I wasn’t really expecting.
This happened with the last post.
So this new one is an attempt to delve deeper into my original topic of Fallow Seasons, and especially what this means with photography.
In the past I’ve not really known a fallow season with my photography, having been churning our pictures readily since about 2005, starting with a camera phone.
My first phase of photography was discovering a kind of consistent voice and approach in terms of subject and composition.
This later evolved through trying out dozens of different cameras and lenses to find the gear I enjoyed most.
Once I tired of become a camera tester and wanted to lean more into being a photographer, I started purging my gear, and experimenting with an ongoing One Month One Camera project.
It’s only really in the last 9-12 months my output has significantly dropped off.
The strange thing with photography – and especially in comparison with my previous and first creative love, writing – is that there’s never really a shortage of material.
With writing you’re always starting with a blank page, then building something from nothing.
Yes of course I do like to keep notes and ideas and drafts for 35hunter posts (the same was true for poetry when that was my main creative outlet for years), so I’m rarely settling down to write with no starting place whatsoever.
But it still has to come out of me and my thinking, sooner or later, one way or another.
With the photography though, you don’t have to go far to find the raw clay to mould into new sculptures. You’re not creating something from nothing, you’re just finding and framing what’s already right there waiting.
So a fallow season in photography I don’t think comes from a lack of material to photograph, at least not for me.
If I was a sports photographer and there were no sport events I could access, or a street photographer who thrived on bustling people, but the streets I loved were near empty, then perhaps a fallow season would be enforced.
I’m sure this must have been the case for many photographers over the last couple of years, but it’s not been a factor I can say has impacted me.
Perhaps this fallow period comes from just tiring of making the same kinds of images over and over.
For a long time the challenge I enjoyed was making equally impressive (to me) pictures, but with different kit.
Taking on something new and mastering it to the point of being able to make the photographs that pleased me most. The same kinds of pictures, but with the new perspective of a different lens and/or camera each time.
I don’t have this interest in particular any longer.
Film photography drifted out of the equation nearly five years ago for various reasons, and on the digital front I’ve used enough of a range of compacts and mirrorless and DSLRs to know what I like and settle on a handful of favourites.
So I’ve found the kind of photographs I like to make, and the equipment I like best in making those photographs. Beyond that I’m kind of just repeating the process.
In a way it’s come full circle, and the photographs I made 15 days ago aren’t that different from ones I was making 15 years ago.
As I also said in the last post, and have done many times before, the primary reason for going on photowalks has been the walking side, ahead of the photography.
Before I walked with a camera, I still loved walking, and have done in the recent months where I’ve rarely taken a camera with me, other than my ever present phone.
The origin of the idea of a fallow season in my memory goes back to farming, in no small part because my granddad and his son, my uncle, were farmers all their lives and we spent many hours around them growing up in Sussex fields.
We absorbed the basics of crop rotation, and that any single field didn’t have the same purpose and the same crops year in year out.
There were changes, and rests, the fallow seasons, where nothing was planted and the ground was allowed to restore itself ready to be richer again for growing a year or two down the line.
So perhaps this is what’s happening with my photography.
I’m not forcing anything, just taking it slow, having a break, to let whatever part of me it is that drives the desire to photograph regain and resummon its motivation. And see where that takes me.
As I ended with in the last post, I’ll repeat here, and that is just to say I’m not concerned about photographing less.
Photography is not my livelihood on a practical level, nor do I have a major artistic drive to make intensely original work that’s displayed in galleries worldwide.
It’s a lovely and valuable hobby, and one that is flexible enough and easy enough to pick up again at a moment’s notice, without the need for any equipment other than what I already have and know.
Something I’ve been putting off for a while on the photography front is a sort through of the cameras and lenses I have, and letting go of what I haven’t used in years and won’t again.
Lack of time may be the obvious excuse I’ve been using, but it’s not the real reason.
I think it’s more that internal battle between knowing there’s probably a few hundred pounds worth of stuff I want to get rid of, making it valuable enough to not want to get nothing for it, but at the same time not wanting all the hassle of listing and selling and packaging and so on.
I think I should just accept the concept of sunk costs for this equipment, and give it away en masse to a charity shop that can list it online and get themselves a decent amount back.
Maybe that clearing out of the excess and letting what remains breathe again, will aid the fallow season and a more enthusiastic return in the weeks and months to come.
How about you? What does a fallow season mean to you, and when did you last experience one?
As always, 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).
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