Looking Back at the Footsteps of Progress

The advantages and disadvantages of any age are always fiercely debated. Being a bit of a techie guy, I do like my gadgets and keeping up with whichever direction my interests are heading. Safe to say,  I am probably something of an early adopter.


I certainly don’t sit down and bemoan the passing of the days of film. I did shoot film but only until I realised that my Praktica camera was going to cost me way too much if I was to become as engrossed with it as I generally do with my interests. As a student, it was not an option and I stepped away from the camera - frittering my hard earned foldables on a healthy music habit instead. 


However, I also don’t think the future is golden and am also something of a nostalgist (bear with me). There’s a part of me that is keen to shoot film again but I never did the whole darkroom thing and that seems a step too far (for now at least).


Digital does at least allow easy, catalogued access to just about every photo I have ever shot - yes, including scanned ones that I shot with my Kodak Instamatic when I was six. Whilst finding those is kind of endearing, if not enlightening, some of the more recent digital outings when I finally picked up a camera again three or four years ago should really have just been deleted and are only taking up virtual space.


What does surprise me is that some of the shots that I never even gave a thought to - missed the moment, chose the wrong settings, completely mis-focused - suddenly have an appeal now that my eye knows more. Didn’t Saul Letter shoot shots like that - out of focus through a window? Isn’t the background actually more interesting than the foreground? Wouldn’t that work in black and white? I will revisit them some day.


It takes time to develop a style and I can’t suppose for a moment that I am there yet. However, I can look back and see the footsteps through the woods on the way to where I am today. Some make me want to wince. Others surprise me. I am glad I kept them all.


Tomorrow I plan to visit Oxford with a friend and his camera. I will shoot street and he will find amazing patterns and abstract geometry in the every day. Both of us seeking out different little nuggets of truth and beauty from our surroundings.


This prompted me to look back at an earlier visit to Oxford. As I suspected, most shots don’t bear looking at. But I was surprised to find one or two black and whites that suddenly pulled me back three years to when I first began to realise that candid street photography was "a thing” - actually a genre in its own right. Something I wanted to be part of.


These photos, which at the time I believe I would probably have shared on Blipfoto, excited me. And today, I can detect that same thrill when I look at them. I had dismissed them as early attempts. I see I shot them at F8 and can still hear one of my friends saying "F8 and Be There.” However, there is a satisfying depth of field and even a certain flukey compositional something going on. Whatever - it was enough to pull me back for another go on the streets … and I keep coming back.


I wonder what tomorrow’s Oxford will bring?