PHOTOGRAPHING PEOPLE: THE CREATIVE PROCESS
Thanks for clicking on my first ever blog here in the Silver Tent. I’m Beverley with 3 e’s. My passion is photographing people, and I plan to share some of my thoughts, considerations and feelings that go into the making of a photographic image. Note that I say making an image, not taking an image. Photography is never a passive process, it requires active observation, selection, an emotional and critical response to what is in front of us, and a particular appreciation of light and its possibilities.
Learning by Doing
This is very much a personal blog, illustrated with examples of my own work. I’m by no means an expert, except on the subject of my own images. I am pretty much self-taught. I have picked up what I can from books, videos, online courses, occasional day workshops offering guidance from more skilled and experienced photographers, but I’ve mostly learned by doing – the struggling, stumbling, failing, reframing, rebounding, and re-emerging path of any creative pursuit, the successful experiments, the partially-informed choices, the heroic failures, the near misses, and those lovely moments where it all comes together, and you finally achieve an image that does justice to your goals and creative vision.
Like many things that offer deep learning, it’s a spiral path, and there are times of feeling all progress is retrograde, of feeling mired, stuck in a skill set or way of seeing, and hearing the seductive whispers of that false friend inside your head who cries “Imposter!” or “You’ll never be as good as X, Y or Z” and “How DARE you presume to pursue photographic art!?” A REAL friend would advise that you treat that internal critic with the contempt she deserves, look at your own work with compassionate eyes, while remaining open to constructive feedback from people whose work and ethics you respect, and who you have ASKED for critique. It’s crucial to learn to love what pleases you in your images, give energy to that, and let go of what doesn’t work, without harsh judgement and with gratitude for the teaching.
I believe that any kind of creative pursuit, carried out with heart and connecting with your unique contribution to the world, is a spiritual practice. It’s a way to pour out love into the world. Is it about outcome? Maybe. Photography certainly can produce a finished image, which may be put out into the world, via print, social media, exhibitions, competitions and the like. It may even earn you money in doing so. Is it about process? Definitely – and to me, that’s of greater importance, and will be the recurring focus of this series of blogs.
So, why people photography? I’ve always been fascinated by other people. I love the infinite variety of faces, what makes each one individual, even where a strong familial resemblance exists. I love the quirks of expression, the whole gamut of eye-brow flashes and mouth twitches that convey so much without words. Also, I love the signifiers of ageing, the mutability of skin, the expansion of noses and ears with time, the sprouting or recession of hair. I love how a certain gesture can sum up a person, can evoke feelings of love, or fear, even anger, as it codifies a lifetime of experience, and we decode its particular meaning for us, personally and culturally.
For me, photographing people is a way to document that delicious array of individuality, while honouring the humanity that unites us. Photographing people can feel honest, contrived, romanticised. It may appear real to the person being photographed, or it may not. It may have strong emotional content or it may be superficial and all about surface. The process may may convey what the photographer intended, sometimes the very opposite. And it may take on other meanings that the photographer didn’t anticipate when they clicked on the shutter button. It is very much rooted in a system of shared values, ways of representing and of seeing, that a photographer may play with or play against.
Inspired by The Silver Tent
That’s probably enough of a taster, for now. I do hope that what I write is interesting and relatable. I will be delighted if it kindles your own interest in observing and photographing people. I’d also be happy to hear your own comments on my images and my personal take on photography. Some editions may be an account of a particular shoot, an image that I am currently editing or a favourite shot from my archive. Others may touch on a theme, an event, a response to other media and how that shapes my image-making. Some will definitely touch upon this year’s personal project I am undertaking – portraiture of women over 50 – which was initially inspired by finding The Silver Tent on Facebook, meeting vibrant and remarkable women at the 0-Thing retreat hosted by Kay Newton in Yorkshire last September, and taking a leap into Silver Synergy.
Until next time – Happy Clicking.
Beverley Thornton is a people photographer. She has been a volunteer photographer with a local health education charity and accepts occasional commissions to raise funds for local cat rescues. Beverley took up photography aged 53, following the birth of her first grandchild. She lives with her husband and 6 cats in Bradford, West Yorkshire. Beverley has worked in banking, mental health, carers support, community radio management and broadcasting, and has organised local workshops for teachers of Gabrielle Roth’s 5 Rhythms. Her other interests include fibromyalgia support, contemporary shamanism, cat-fostering and Steampunk. Beverley has a BSc (Hons) in Psychology.
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