In this age of photography when everybody takes loads of photos and posts them online, there are many almost identical images.
We’re all guilty of it, posting exactly the same pictures every year, sometimes every week.
The natural rhythms of a calendar year draw us to springtime blooms, green forests, summery beaches, dead leaves dropped to the ground, blankets of snow and draped frost. It’s hard to resist them, however much we might try. Or it is for me anyway, for now.
I was struck by this when taking the annual shot of my parents’ labrador Maya bounding through bluebells back home in the Forest of Dean. A whole other post on that from last year is here. Hopefully these habitual shots are slowly improving, but they remain essentially the same shots of the same things.
Before transferring the images across I pondered what they’d really add to my library. Anything? I even thought it possible that my few from last year – including one of my most popular ever Flickr efforts – were better. What was the point? But still I did.
We instinctively take the same pictures of the same things, over and over and therein might lie madness, according to some. It seems most acceptable when humans are involved: you’re charting the growth of your kids through birthday parties and Christmases. Selfies now appear to rule, much as they make me uncomfortable.
But with nature, despite being magnetically compelled by the changes and inherent beauty in landscapes, returning year after year to the same things can begin to feel strange.
If you take a beautiful landscape image, what have you documented that is truly original? Perhaps there’s more currency and merit in recreating such scenes and landscapes using media other than photography, which is most often a close replication of what the eye can see. Mixed media, paint or an inventive new form can add a new layer or dimension where photography might arguably now be tired and old and boringly commonplace.
This is why I feel conflicted about photographing scenes of nature that are clearly beautiful. What more are you really adding? What are you really documenting that’s different? (Hence I might attempt to add a twist of surrealism if possible).
And it’s also why I’m more drawn to sport, streets and weddings: places and moments of unique authenticity that can’t happen again in the same way. Sure, there are always football matches, always people walking or cycling down streets, always happy beaming couples embracing. But the individuality and component parts are always authentic, the moment is fleeting and uniquely encapsulated in a way that can never be exactly recreated.
Whereas, a beautiful sunset on a beach in 1998 can look exactly the same as a beautiful sunset on the same beach tomorrow. There’s nothing wrong in photographing it. It might feel impossible not to, even if you have similar shots already. The reason why might come down to the drive to improve or approach a shot differently. Perhaps you have a different lens that makes all the difference. The question Why? is always a valid one.
Do you really need or want those images? What do they represent to you (personally or professionally)? What will you ultimately do with them?
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