In my thesis and this blog, I have often referred to the fact that I process images (and write about them) as quickly as possible after the moment of capture. There are a number of reasons for this which I would like to discuss.
Psychology tells us that memory is veridical, or literal, for only a short time. And our memory of an event or experience rapidly becomes a subjective rather than objective recollection. Over time, the image becomes more about the photographer and less about the object and in John Szarkowski’s (1978) terms, the image becomes more of a “mirror” reflecting back at the photographer, rather than a “window” or lens on the world.
As a wildlife photographer, processing my images quickly was important too. I often took more images than those working in other genres such as landscape. It was imperative that I kept on top of the processing each evening, otherwise, the task became unmanageable. I was also keen to review my work and think about improvements or changes in approach during an all too short overseas visit. However, even further back in my photographic career than that, as a police photographer, it was important that I took a literal representation of my subject and like my wildlife work, the images were processed by others quickly.
In my practice-led research for my PhD, I have been persistent in the rapid and limited processing of my images. I am trying to capture the reality of objects and a moment of revelation that is short-lived. I do not wish for my images to be influenced afterwards by those thoughts and memories I might have about a particular day’s shoot, which may or may not be different to those I had at the time. For example, I might romanticise the day, allow external influences to encroach or be affected by whatever life throws at me in the intervening period. I may be in a better or worse frame of mind than that at the moment of capture!
I mentioned earlier that my practice is not only taking images but also writing or recording notes on my phone in the field. Again, an attempt to capture the moment in time rather than a memory of it later on. While early in my PhD journey, I wrote about what I revealed during the shoot, my practice soon changed to writing contemporaneous notes after my photographic work had concluded. I found that writing as I captured images had the effect of taking me back to a conscious state of mind rather than retaining a non-conscious awareness and dwelling. The writing now often occurs in the car afterwards, as I wind down after an exciting or challenging day in the field, often soaking wet or windswept!
Object-Oriented Photography, for me, is about capturing the object of my attention or a particular aspect of the object’s reality. While, as Freeman Patterson (1977) says, “the camera looks both ways” and I agree with his view, I seek to minimise the impact I have through the rapid post-processing regime.
Patterson, F. (1977). Photography for the Joy of It. Toronto, Van Nostrand Reinhold Ltd.
Szarkowski, J. (1978). Mirrors and Windows – American Photography since 1960. New York, The Museum of Modern Art.