Transition. Part Four: Finally found what I’m looking for.
Last time I took you diving, but I still hadn’t found the camera I was looking for. I’d reached the end of the road with what I could accomplish with the Canon G9 and its successors weren’t moving in a direction that I liked. I needed more resolution and flexibility in a small package. Fortunately in the summer of 2009 Panasonic announced the GF1 micro four thirds camera and many of my questions were answered. The GF1 is a mirrorless system, so it’s small, but it has a large sensor so it makes good images. It was bigger than the point and shoot, but the size was worth it.
It still took me 9 months to finally buy one because I’m pretty hesitant to buy the first generation of anything electronic, and in the meantime I did my research and realized that I was going to be able to adapt some really great glass to the GF1. I still own a Contax G2, but I never really liked the ergonomics of it and it fell out of rotation. The lenses I have for it however, can easily be adapted to the GF1. And suddenly I have a Zeiss 45mm f2 in my pocket…
Of course the lens that I’ve kept mounted 90% of the time is the Panasonic 20mm 1.7, a spectacular fast and sharp pancake lens that I bought the body with. I also bought a pricey 7-14mm f4 that hasn’t gotten a lot of use. It’s a good lens, but it’s so big that it sort of defeats the purpose of the small body.
So this has became my walkaround rig and has been for the last couple of years. I still go to the DSLR for when I have to shoot in the studio or action, but I was doing that way less at the time and started getting really interested in trying different styles.
In the process, I started to read up on street photography and tentatively went down that road. I find street photography to be really invasive, and as a result I’ve always kinda shied away from it. However, like just about everything in my life, when I find something intimidating, that’s all the more reason to give it a whirl.
The results of shooting people in the streets came slowly. I threw away hundreds of shots before I finally got one I liked. Slowly I got a few more, and became less intimidated by the process, but there were lots of shots I missed too. When a fight broke out literally on my shoes at the corner of Hastings and Main, my instinct was to walk the other way, not to pull out my camera. And when a guy collapsed and paramedics arrived to perform CPR on the street in front of the police station, I wasn’t pushing the EMTs out of the way to get the shot; I was more concerned that he was going to be ok. I guess I just don’t have the stones to be a crime reporter…
But urban spaces kept speaking to me and over the last few years I’ve put together a large body of work that speaks about the relationship between people and the city. As my thoughts about that relationship developed, so did the work and my photos became less abstract and more focused. As themes developed they recurred and I became more sure of my direction.
I still am fascinated by texture and patterns, and while I spend less time trying to “capture” people on the streets, I’m interested in relationships of scale and environmental interaction. Well, that and goofy pictures of the dog…
So in my first Bneeth column I told you about my creative existential crisis. It’s taken a few columns, but this is where I am today. I know myself as a photographer like I never did when I shot action sports exclusively, and I’ve let the work dictate the choices I’ve made. Interestingly, in the process I started to appreciate shooting action sports again. I don’t want to spend 7 months on a snowmobile again anytime soon, but I like to think the work I do now comes with a lot more skill and a far better eye.