Like many people who are self-employed, I imagine, I try to make good use of the quiet week or two around Christmas and new year for tidying up and catching up on administration tasks. Before that makes me sound like some sort of un-festive Scrooge, I hasten to add that I also spend lots of time catching up with family and friends; but when I’m not doing that, it’s definitely an opportunity for an early “spring clean”.
This year I have been tackling my old photo collection. People often complain that one of the downsides of digital photography is the tendency not to print out our photos so much. This may well be true, but it is an affliction which does not seem to have found its way into my photo collection. I have a large “map desk” in my office, several drawers of which seem to be stuffed full of prints of varying shapes and sizes, and I have been quite cheerfully sorting through these over the past day or two.
They range back over quite a period, and it’s actually rather fun rediscovering images I had forgotten. Some, it’s fair to say, might in fact be best left forgotten! Like most things in life, photography improves with practice, and some of my earlier images are not ones I would necessarily want to display in pride of place now.
But that’s not the whole story. There were some early images of mine which I came back to again and was really struck by. I fully recognise, of course, that I may be biassed in my assessment! But it seemed to me that some of the images had a refreshing “newness” about them – perhaps something in the composition was unusual, or the exposure settings were slightly different from what I might have used in the same situation now.
As you progress with a skill like photography, you learn certain ways of doing things. You learn what works for you and what kind of images you like, you learn the compositional approaches and exposure decisions which come to form your unique “style”. That’s all important stuff and part of the learning process.
But if my review of old photos has taught me anything, it’s that before we learn too much it’s worth revisiting that time when we didn’t know all the rules, and experimented with the energy and innovation of a novice. And to continue to be able to see what you do with that sort of open mind is perhaps the single most important lesson of all.
Happy new year!