Since two years I am member of a local photography club. I appreciate the conversations, the interactions with others, and the diversity. This year, the club exists 50 years and the year will be full with celebrations, lectures, and an exhibition. Last Wednesday the members were provided a change to show their general photographic development from their start till now with at max 5 photographs. It was quite fascinating to see how people developed their style, preferred genre, and vision. Some where resistant showing their photographs when they became member of the club. Too scared for critics. Others where excited when they learned about getting a mentor.
Last year I gave the members an introduction of my work in a 20 minutes presentation. Most of the preparation time was filled with organizing and selecting photographs and thinking about an accompyning story. Since I already had my retrospective work of like 20 years of photography (20 years since I feel work became a bit better to show others), this time I had more time to think about the changes that evolved in my photography.
Even though I still have no clue whether I am on the right track or doing things properly, I have learned though that everything has been my own effort. I have never asked advices, I never got directional advices either. I am totally self taught and not technically trained or art educated. While I love photography, as a teenager I actually preferred to draw, to make sketches. And for long I searched for something similar in photography. Part of the reason why I like compact cameras.
The first time I shared my photographs with my late grand father, a former professional photographer, he felt the need to tell the horror stories of his photographic endeavours and business failure. He accentuated the negative sides. And I don’t blame him and I fully understand it too. He started photographing for completely different reasons. His father became a professional photographer in the early 20th century and my grand father was trained to take over the business. It was hard working and when cheap film development appeared on the market late Seventies he lost a lot of his customers. Photography was not a passion. It was a job.
Maybe I took photography too serious and maybe I tried too hard to be good. I too much wanted to change, forced my photography in something else I wasn’t. With the turn of the millenium I almost gave it up, until my son was diagnozed autism. I know I have said it before, but it was a changing moment. What mattered to me was photographing the things in my own life. My family, my daily routine, the mundane, the ordinary. Sketchy, like a scrapbook.
Photography, like any art form, is a powerful tool to express yourself and to reflect who and what you are. Becoming aware of that is probably one of the most significant things to learn and can finally add meaningful substance to art.
It brings me back to last Wednesday night when I started my introduction with a Agfa Click that I got from my grand father some 15 years ago. I played with that camera way before I started photographing thinking Agfa was a toy brand. These were the times that everything was simple. One of the reasons why I still like to simplify some of my compositions underneath the multi-layered personal context. One of the reasons too why I still focus mostly on the mundane, the ordinary, ’cause the ordinary is often not so ordinary after all.
All photographs by Wouter Brandsma