First, let me say thank you to Manoli for starting this thread and, when I finally got round to finding and reading it, also giving me a bit of a conscience about sudden departures! Othersí additional expressions of regret at my ĎAWOLí do surely make me feel that this site has, indeed, quite a bit of a family underneath it all.
Thing is, Iíve felt poster-driven to quitting LuLa twice before and both times I eventually managed to get over it and back into circulation again. Unfortunately, in the best tradition of the Hydra-headed monsters of yesteryear, as soon as one gets chopped off another springs up to replace it, and that gets somewhat tiresome for me, as much as it probably was for the Greeks, to say the very least, and as politely as one can. And no, it isnít simply pique nor is it some kind of polling gesture on my part. The raw - if mundane - truth is that Iíve had two heart Ďadventuresí already and despite myself, I do take whatís written here on the forum as seriously as I do that which I contribute from my end. Consequently, I tend, slowly, to get wound up, and after some time I feel itís either I get the hell out or I allow it to take me out instead. I just donít have the resilience anymore.
You see, admitting this brings its own difficulty: perhaps some might decide to treat me with kid gloves, and thatís of no use to anyone, least of all to myself. If you want to play, you have to play as the game is, and accept whatever reaction you create towards yourself. It would be unbearable to imagine being given some kind of Ďspecialí treatment out of fear of causing health harm. It would be absolutely transparent and embarrassing to all concerned.
A couple of days or so ago I had a look at the list of threads on Coffee; I realised that little there was of genuine interest to me. I then wondered why and how Iíd managed to ring up so many posts to my account, and the unavoidable conclusion that I came up with was that I had little else to do. And that was simply wrong: I have a hell of a lot to do, starting with keeping the property in decent shape, right from first principles such as using the vacuum cleaner now and again! This year, I donít think I even varnished the acres of shutters that seem to grow mentally more huge and intimidating every year in spring though in real terms they obviously remain exactly the same as ever; the varnishing is okay - masks or not you get pleasantly high doing it anyway, itís the preparatory work thatís the drag. Then thereís the photography. I found I was doing not a lot. So, all in all, scribbling had taken over at the cost of pretty much everything else, and become an easy way out of other duties.
Actually, I really dislike arguments. Especially do I dislike arguments that I know will never resolve themselves in any reasonable way because their very subject matter permits of no clear resolution, and the various factions often have no interest in resolving anything beyond having the final bark. Itís so damned pointless, isnít it?
Photography is indeed a sort of common experience shared by those who do it; however, the differences in mindset between the pros and ams is usually pretty huge. I write mindset and not ability, because outwith the realm of specialized branches of photography, itís pretty much the same challenge to everyone who takes part in it. One of the differences is that the pro usually realises that there is a basic reality behind it all, that some people have what it takes where others do not (and that isnít a factor that always governs commercial success, either, which is the product of many other factors, many of which lie quite beyond the individualís control). That being so, much of the chat about critiques, how-to books, camera and/or lens comparisons, fanboyism, etc. etc. leave me perplexed and wondering if some people still really do believe they can buy a magic bullet.
There is also the factor of generations. After a few years of teaching myself the basics and buying some reasonable stuff, I began as a trainee professional in an industrial photo-unit in 1960, spending a helluva lot of time printing other photographersí work, which was a fantastic learning experience that taught me so much that I didnít even know was there to be learned. I had the wonderful opportunity of working in a situation where cost was not a factor: you printed until it was right, and then, when you understood the print, made maybe fifty more, exactly the same, by hand. And that took a lot of experience mileage. How long does it take to learn how to make a reasonable digital image for the web?
When, years later came digital, I was more or less ready to stop, if only because much of what I did was being crushed by political correctness. Stock, another important fact of life, also began to become more expensive to supply than it was capable of earning. Some studios I knew vanished from the face of the Earth, as did some of Londonís biggest labs. In other words, for a large number of us, it was an industry in accelerating decline. As I could afford to do it, and probably had little real option, I let it all drift away and mostly went sailing with friends. But, that left a bloody big hole: I still loved photography.
So as a result, I began to frequent the BJP site of the day and met several of the guys with whom I hope I am still friends here, today. However, even that haven was not to last and a few morons ruined it for everyone else; most of us who cared enough walked and met up elsewhere. But, as I mentioned, it is also a generation thing: I grew up in the era of Nikon F and Hasselblad 500C, where the equipment was simple, lasted forever, and other than with the Ďblad, you had to try really hard if you wanted to jam it! And thatís all there was to it. Digital, on the other hand, strikes me still as at its best when I disable every goddamn useless function that I can. You see the cultural divide appearing here between my generation and all the young turks of today?
As a result, I feel that I canít quite get the amateur thing, canít understand why people in both camps agonize over not having the latest number of pixels popping out of their camera, and I dislike the current look of much of the model work that I see anywhere. I like skin (hell, Iím permanently wrapped in it!), I do not have a plastics fetish any more than I do a love for fake breasts that for me achieve the perfect opposite of the charm that they are supposed to exude: they make women look like ludicrous whores. Wonderful possibility for serious surgical needs, but a travesty for modelling. IMO. The result, not of the plastic but of the thinking, is that I hardly fit into either the pro or am worlds of today, so what the hell have I to write about here that I have not already repeated perhaps once or twice too often already? If I fear boring myself, what must I be doing to other people?
However, I do love photographs and enjoy looking at most of them, which is balanced in some odd way by a desire to show my own though I fail to find charm in reading suggested Ďimprovementsí which is almost never more than the art of second-guessing and an attempt to impose oneís own visual ideas and concepts upon anotherís mind, something I fear is very dangerous for the newer photographer who, I believe, should be allowed to follow his own nose all the way. How else to be yourself? You canít be anyone else, so donít waste time trying; sheep live hellish lives: not only do they get fleeced, they even get eaten. So rather than asking for the opinions of people who probably know as little about aesthetics as anyone else, I feel neophytes should just read more and look at great photographersí websites, of which there is legion. Theyíll soon learn personal likes and dislikes and where they think they might feel most comfortable whilst being themselves. All the greats did exactly that: they invented and developed themselves, some several times over.
Well, I see that despite myself I have sat here so long writing this that I have developed numb legs. I shall be happy to rejoin the bus, but I think I shall probably find that I keep my mouth fairly closed.
However it turns out, thank you for caring.