So that's it then, 2018 has been and gone and to say it was a life-changing year for me is no understatement! 2018 was the year where I faced up to the gnawing doubt in my mind about what I was doing with my life and decided to grow a pair and go after what I really wanted my life to be spent doing. It was also the year that my personal photographic path took a completely new direction, developing a new focus and style while teaching me a lot about how to shoot what I wanted to shoot. I went from Canon to Fuji, and then from digital to film, in a search to try to create the type of photography that I felt was best for me.
At the start of last year, I began an experiment looking at how limiting myself to using only black and white in my photography would influence my style. This experiment quickly led to me focussing on the use of strong highlights and deep shadows to create interesting compositions in my street photography. I didn't start the year with this aim of only shooting my personal work in black and white, however as the year progressed and a style began to emerge, I began to see how this limitation was helping my photography. The removal of colour allowed me to focus on subject and composition which I believe enabled me to make better images in my eyes. Throughout the year I applied this same approach to my street photography, my portraiture, and finally to a new series of architectural photography. Over time I began to see and think about my photography in black and white as a result of this restriction that I had placed upon myself. I developed a real love for black and white photography that I know will endure throughout my photographic career.
Something I didn't expect though was the way shooting in black and white exclusively began to help me to see colour differently. I've always felt that colour in an image, particularly a street photography image in the classic sense, can be a distraction if it is not adding to the composition in an interesting way. People might think this is an obvious observation, but to see colour used in a street image in the way that someone like Alex Webb used it, is enough make you realise that this is not an easy thing to achieve! However, there have been times certainly in the latter half of the year where I have seen a frame and the association and organisation of colours in it have really jumped out to me in a way that I don't think they would have had I not been seeing and thinking in black and white. Strangely, shooting exclusively in black and white has started to give me the appetite and confidence to introduce colour back into my work, and to go back to those images that I know worked well in colour and give them an airing.
As 2018 moved through its seasons I began looking for a way to further simplify my work and reach a new level of honesty in it. I wanted to find a way of creating images that were as real as they could be, no editing, just creating images in camera as I saw them at the moment I released the shutter. A move from digital to film was the step I was looking for and it finally came in Autumn when I bought an Olympus Trip from a friend, before jumping in with both feet and buying a Leica M6. Several good friends had urged me to start shooting film but I had resisted for a long time due to its cost and a lack of equipment. However, when I finally made the switch it dawned on me how the limitation of 36 frames in a roll of 35mm film actively forced me to be more precise with the images I was making. I'm still in the early days of this journey but moving to film has been one of the most challenging, yet rewarding steps I've taken in my photography.
This was also the year when I finally let photography take over my life completely. I had been considering going freelance as a photographer for some time but the thought of the uncertainty associated with starting again had always dissuaded me. Over 15 years I had built my career in the diagnostics industry, reaching the level of Director by 37, so to walk away from it all was no small or easy decision. I hadn't been happy in my career for a long time though but fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, photography had slowly been taking over my brain space. So, in April, and with the support of my amazing wife, I took the decision to resign. Four months later I found myself for the first time in my life self-employed and trying to earn a living by doing something that I loved. It's been an incredible 4 months since I went full-time freelance at the end of August, working with some amazing clients, teaching my skills to others, and of course launching our first Birmingham Photography Festival with two great friends. It's not been easy though, and the path ahead in 2019 is a scary one. However, I feel confident that if I keep working hard and keep shooting for myself, that my success thus far will continue.