I may have returned to work after a restorative four-month sabbatical but as I resumed gainful employment in Paris, I have been acutely aware that August is really a time for holiday. However, it is not only the Parisian metro and the office blocks of La Défense – Paris’ Canary Wharf – that are deserted; the holiday season is also visible in world of blogging.
Many of the bloggers I follow have swapped their normal posts for photo posts that sum up their day or week. Susannah Conway introduced August Break, the e-version equivalent of a French or Italian summer holiday, and as a photographer specialising in Polaroid photos her dreamy blog is a good advert of how a website can remain engaging and entertaining despite a seasonal dip in wordy posts. But it is not only professional photographers who are embracing this break from their normal blogging schedule. Many creative souls and keen amateurs are also taking some time out thanks to photo posts this months.
Although tempted I have resisted the temptation to join in for two reasons. First, I am a words person first and foremost: writing is still more intuitive for me than taking pictures. Secondly, my photographic development is in a strange place at the moment that does not easily lend itself to posting a regular photo commentary.
After starting this blog I picked up a camera for the first time in many years. It was a simple point and shoot digital camera, nothing sexy, no bells and whistles, just a simple device with which to take simple photos to add visual interest to my posts. Nearly a year on, photography has taken on many more roles in my life.
Thanks to an iPhone (a gadget I never thought I could justify), enjoyable and supportive e-courses like Susannah’s Unravelling and Vivienne McMaster’s You Are Your Own Muse and the luxury of going at a slower pace for four months, I have discovered a new way of seeing and am developing a visual voice. I no longer just use photos to illustrate my posts. Rather, by making photography part of everyday life, I am absorbing scenes, colours, shapes… all of which deepen my connection with my world and community, and many of which trigger a train of thought that turns into an essay, a short story or a post.
An analogue adventure
This newly found enjoyment of seeing and shooting would have lent itself well to August Break, were it not that my photography has been sent down a somewhat contrary route. Although the digital world drew me into photography, thanks to a toy camera that takes medium format film, the unexpected inheritance of my dad’s Olympus SP35 rangefinder and the infectious enthusiasm of Polaroid photographers around the world, I have become passionate about analogue photography.
This attraction comes as no surprise to me. As a child I would sit on the sofa next to dad as he carefully turned the pages on monographs by the founders of Magnum. By the time I was a teenager, I would help my brother develop and print his reportage-style photos in our garage-cum-darkroom.
Getting to know dad’s beloved camera has been bitter-sweet but for all the moment’s of sadness, there is also a strong sense of connection and continuity. As the old saying goes: “In an ending there is a beginning”! However, for all the continuity, there is also progression. As much as I love black and white film (my dad’s preferred medium), I am embracing all manner of film, lights, styles…
Thanks to Vivienne I love the energy and life of light flares and the mystery and intrigue of shadows. Thanks to Susannah and the generous Polaroid enthusiasts in cyberspace, like Deb in Ottawa and Meghan in Lincoln (Nebraska, not East Midlands), I am experimenting with the hazy and often overexposed colours of Polaroid, which make my surroundings feel like something out of my childhood or Seventies story books. And thanks to Lomography, the company that brought back Diana cameras, I have discovered the mesmerising but sometimes disturbing impact of red scale (which is particularly appropriate in moments of melancholy or frustration with the modern world).
As I strongly believe that “to everything there is a season”, I am not surprised that I have fallen for analogue photography in a big way in recent months. This year has been one of journeying more slowly, of taking a step sideways out of a world that turns at a ridiculous pace. Film photography (even using Polaroid film) involves deferred gratification. The photographer experiences hope and anticipation that film speed, exposure, lighting, aperture and composition have all come together, and yes… disappointment too. This deferral in seeing the captured moment makes it harder to embrace the immediacy of August Break but is most definitely a major part of the attraction and magic of analogue photography!