How Do You Keep Focus?
I picked up my first camera, a Nikon D70, back in late 2004. That’s almost 8 years ago; a sufficient amount of time to have passed to have long since stopped considering myself a newbie. But at the time I was a complete photography virgin, with absolutely no clue what so ever about photography, either as a craft or an art form. I remember opening the user manual and going through every function and menu item, learning how to adjust the various cameras settings, but not understanding in the least, what any of the settings actually did. So my focus at the time was to learn. To absorb as much information as I could about the basics of photography, focusing very much on the craft, hoping that the art would follow at some point down the road.
The First Year
That first year, I really immersed myself in photography, trying to pick up as much information and guidance as I could from on-line content and availing of the constructive(?) critique offered in many photography forums. I even had a UK Photographer, Simon Young, fly to Ireland to offer direct 1 to 1 tuition (well actually 1 to 4 – a group of us did it to keep the costs sensible), My point being, it was easy to keep focused, easy to be motivated. Everything was new and I was continually improving, albeit in small steps.
The Camera Club Scene
In September 2006, having been shooting for just under 2 years, I joined a local camera club: Celbridge Camera Club. Up to that point, most of my work was predominantly monochrome, with the odd rare colour image thrown in. Based on my portfolio at the time, I managed to blag my way straight into their “Advanced” section and was ready to compete. You see camera clubs are very competition focused, or certainly Celbridge was at the time. Although the competition aspect was new to me, I was always used to having my work judged or critiqued on line, so I fit straight into the competitions and having my work judged by photographers. And the competitions gave me a new focus. I wasn’t just focused on learning any more, but now focused on improving at a faster rate, so my work could compare and ideally thrive against the work of the other photographers around me.
Apart from introducing me to some great friends (in that club and Nationally), Celbridge Camera Club also helped me focus on other areas of my photography. Having joined as a monochrome only photographer, it soon became evident to me, that in order to win the prized “Photographer Of The Year”, I needed to branch into colour and indeed needed to invest in learning about printing – both of which I did.
The IPF Distinctions
Sadly, the focus that local club competitions provide, tends to drop off as time goes by. By and large, you are competing against the same photographers or certainly the same type of images. Clubs tend to be steered by their stronger members, so the style and genre they shoot can really impact the style and genre the club becomes known for. Having competed successfully within the club, I started to lose that focus and decided to look beyond for my next project, something to get me back on track and this came by way of the IPF distinctions. The distinction process is simply where the photographer produces a body of work which is then judged and either deemed to be of a standard or indeed not of a standard. The levels are the LIPF (10 images), AIPF (15 images) and finally the FIPF (20 images). These were just what I needed at the time and I jumped straight in. My LIPF, awarded in April 2008 was a body of work I pulled from existing material and following on from that I shot an (almost) dedicated panel of 15 images for my AIPF, which was awarded in November that same year (2008) and a completely new and completely different panel for my Fellowship the following April, 2009. These were just the focus, just the project I needed at the time. A solid 12 months of shooting and printing, working both on the art and the craft.
Following on from my Fellowship in May of 2009, I suffered my first serious dip… my first serious loss of focus. 2008/2009 was a pretty intense year of shooting, so much so it all became a bit like work. But after a while, I started to shoot again and focused my attention at shooting for and submitting to FIAP Salons. I had found another focus, another new motivation And I’ve been really lucky to have had some success in these salons, having picked up 50 international awards in a 19 month period (assuming this gets published in early/mid March).
Sadly though, my motivation here is also starting to wane. My last proper shoot was back in early November with Iveta Niklova and a very VERY short shoot during my trip to New York with Anna Catherine. In essence though, I haven’t had a shoot in almost 6 months. That’s 1/2 a year Without new content to submit, I haven’t been interested in submitting to new salons. It’s also pretty tough keeping up a “photo blog” without images to show And being honest, I’ve actually found it very hard to plan any shoots, because without a project in mind, I’m not sure what the content will be for? I guess I’ve lost my focus.
It used to be enough to shoot for the sheer fun of it… or was it? Looking back I’ve always had a project in mind or an end goal to work for, so was it ever just about the process? I know every photographer tends to go through dips where their interest, motivation and love affair wanes and I guess this is just my turn?