Whenever one reads an ‘About’ page on a photographer’s website, one’ll invariably find something about them being born with a camera in their hands or that it’s all they’ve ever wanted to do, that they loved it from an early age. I’m jealous of them.
I was different. To me, photography was a black magic, and apparently fairly pointless, exercise that I had no desire to get my head round it. Aperture, shutter speed, focus, metering etc were terms that I simply didn’t want to understand. As far as I was concerned, I could never, and would never, enjoy it or master it. As such, when it did happen, to say that it was unexpected is an understatement!
In 2005, whilst on operations in Iraq, I was given, in spite of my protestations, the camera that belonged to my squadron. The squadron leader ordered me to take it and with it, photographs of our tour. Suddenly I found myself the official photographer first for my squadron, and, then, the regiment. As you can imagine, at the time I had more important things to think about – this camera was more than just an irritant and very nearly went ‘missing’ on a number of occasions!
But as I slowly began to turn out the odd image of which I was strangely proud, my attitude towards photography slowly changed from ‘won’t, can’t and not interested’ to absolute excitement and enthusiasm, which remains as undiminished now as it did when I first recognised it in myself.
Fifteen years later, the rather arbitrary fashion in which I was nominated to photograph my Regiment on operations in the Arabian desert now makes me laugh with relief. Imagine if photography had never ‘happened’ to me? I wonder what I would I be doing now? And where?!
Photography is an extraordinary art form. Its variation, versatility and sheer creative power is literally never-ending; everything can be photographed, and in a million different ways. It is a combination of an art and a science about which you can never hope to understand everything. Innate talent (or ‘your eye’) isn’t enough, but neither is just outright bloody-mindedness to learn the technical aspects; to be a photographic Jedi is to have a huge understanding and balance of both, as well as having put in thousands and thousands of hours of practise. It’s expensive, time consuming, frustrating, and demoralising.
But… that sense of achievement, sense of creating something, of always finding something to discover, satisfaction and sometimes sheer exhilaration of taking an epic photograph makes every hour sat fiddling with your camera waiting for that kingfisher to arrive; or trying to get the angle that you just can’t quite nail down; or the nerves before photographing a wedding; or even the interminable editing in a dark room by yourself when you should be outside on a glorious summer’s evening, very worthwhile.
I’ve realised that I’m extraordinarily lucky to be able to pursue a creative process that I love as my career. I work anywhere and everywhere – wherever the client is. I can live nomadically and, so long as the internet connection is workable, photography is both a means of living and a reason to travel. It is my passport to meeting interesting people, trying exotic food, climbing mountain ranges or sailing the oceans.