WORKING FRIENDSHIPS

 almost impossible

I ve really begun to suffer the eternal problem of the jobbing freelance photographer, loneliness. I spend most of my time in the car alone or in solitary confinement in a random hotel room or bed and breakfast.

I long for the company of other photographers to share anecdotes, ideas or techniques. So with company in mind, and inspiration, I dropped a few emails to some of the landscape photographers who inspire me: Joe Cornish, David Noton and Eddie Ephraums. All of them replied, and offers of coffee or a chat if I was passing were forthcoming.

I ve yet to take up Joe on his offer of coffee as Inot been anywhere near his Yorkshire home. David kindly asked me to help with a few articles for his website and Eddie, well Eddie has opened my eyes wider.

I first met Eddie at a Light & Land discovery day/workshop-we were both speaking to a very receptive audience of enthusiast photographers. We kept in loose contact while I laboured under the stress of The Times  picture desk and finally got together in the cafe of the National Gallery in London. We chatted about how digital photography has really affected the community of photographers-although Facebook and Flickr do have a virtual community.

During our chat I explained that I felt I was losing the identity of my photography through the corporate work I have to do to make ends meet and enable me to head off to the hills and shoot my real passion, landscapes.

Of course I shouldn t moan, and I m not really, but the relentless circle of branding and portraits is not stretching me very much, creatively.

Eddie smiled ruefully, "been there, done that," he said. He admitted that he had also lost his way a little and was trying to rediscover his creative energy-and get excited again.

Coffee and cakes came and went, very nice they are too if you are in need of sustenance while in Trafalgar Square! After quite a lot of bouncing ideas from random conversation points we ended up challenging each other to produce up to 10 images for a handmade book each. I would edit Eddie s images (very daunting I can tell you-he s the man whose books I have on my shelf at home!) and he would edit mine (even more scary as it means he gets to see how bad my files really are!).

The theme for our shoot off: Identity! How or what identifies us? Is it our faces, family, cars, cameras, houses, friends? The brief is loose and the options are so numerous it is almost impossible to know where to begin.

theme for our shoot off-Identity! How or what identifies us. Is it our faces, family, cars, cameras, houses, friends?

The brief is loose and the options are so numerous it is almost impossible to know where to begin.”Paul Sanders

Depending on the day and the time, my view of my own identity changes hugely. But I have to say it really got my creative juices flowing. The very idea that another photographer, one for whom I have huge respect, wanted to experiment and shared my own thoughts was amazing.

We set ourselves a deadline-only a week to produce the images for editing-which like all deadlines I started working on just before it expired!

Now my images, to be honest, aren t that great. I just shot random things that I kept when I moved house after my wife and I split up-these seemed to be the only things that I have carried around in my life; books, cooking things, my watch, a card made by a friend of my son and I together. Then I turned out my pockets-you can see a theme developing-yes I am too lazy to really set anything up!

Eddie was kind about my work; he was gentle in his critique too, thankfully. I made cooing noises over his and felt vaguely out of my depth, but nothing ventured nothing gained! The little books we made were pretty cool, hand-stitched by my own fair hand.

What came out of this little experiment was something quite wonderful. I now have a very good friend and fellow photographer who I can call any time for help or a chat, but the exercise gave me a sense of belonging to something. Yes it was only an exercise, but it involved two people not competing with or trying to impress each other but working on a small project for nothing but satisfaction and fun. We are now both reshooting our identity projects too.

But what has also come out of it is a partnership and a business idea. We are going to use the model we set each other to set project-based assignments to other photographers-a sort of long workshop. Photographers will (we hope) come along to be challenged and tested over the course of a month and at the end they will make their own book.

The idea behind it is that we re-establish the sense of real community that photographers used to have when we went to labs and darkrooms. Something to bring us together to have fun and develop our ideas and techniques without affecting our clients, but mostly to allow us to feel that we are a part of something that can support us or give us the kick up the backside we sometimes need but is not competitive or elitist.

Lets all get back our sense of why we do this job: our love of taking pictures.

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