Contemplation; and the need for speed.
Mike and I have been taking photographs regularly (at least once a week) for about 2 years now. We both have day jobs, very busy day jobs. We go out to take photos when we have a break from work, usually middays or afternoons after work.
A consequence of our day jobs is that we usually have very limited time in which to do any actual photography. Going out at midday gives us only an hour, driving to a location away from work, in midday traffic, is usually not practical (although we have on occasion). So we often just walk around the immediate vicinity. It helps that our offices are fairly close and that we are in the centre of Georgetown.
Afternoon photo expeditions grant us a little more freedom as we tend to have more time. But everything is relative, more time just means an hour and a half rather than 45 minutes.
So, contemplation. What part does that play again?
For years I had been dying to get a chance to spend some time at Kaieteur Falls. This was partly because for some types of photos I need time to set up and the normal hour that you can spend there if you fly in is not enough. But a bigger part, for me, was the fact that to properly represent all that the National Park is, time is needed even by the photographer, to figure out what it is all about. There is no argument that the falls are the centrepiece, but that is not all there is, and straightforward photos of the falls are, to me, not necessarily representative of the whole experience.
My favourite photo there is the shot below. It took me at least half hour to get that scene framed and shot (it’s an HDR). But at least another half hour before that just to pick the spot from which I wanted to take the photo. The key was to spend some time there; smelling the air, listening to water flow, letting myself become calm and letting the excitement of just being there dissipate a bit.
Unfortunately, as I pointed out above, we are not always afforded the opportunity to stop and look. Most of the time our photographic opportunities resemble a drive by shooting more than anything else. Our trips to Berbice and elsewhere that should take a month of slowly making our way through villages, usually take us a half day. Yet we do come away with some decent photos quite often. I’m particularly pleased with the photo below that we got on a trip to Berbice recently.
Contemplation for us is often compressed into the barest minimum time permits. My father once likened what we do to a hunter looking for prey. The comparison is apt, but I wish it wasn’t. Much preferable to us (I think I can speak for Mike here also) would be the opportunity to sit and look, think on the scene for a while. I will speak for myself here, but I think there is a bit of shallowness to my photos with which I am often unhappy. Unfortunately, until I some rich benefactor appears, and my children grow up, time will ever be scarce and photography will continue to be a lower priority no matter how I wish otherwise.
This is very sad to me, as I believe there is so much to photograph around me, but I cannot see thanks to the need for speed and the lack of time for contemplation.
The situation that prompted me to write this occurred last Friday. St. Barnabas, an Anglican Church built in 1884 is about to be torn down to make way for a shopping centre. You can read more about that here.
I (and many others) consider this to be very unfortunate. We Guyanese are slowly, but surely, losing all of our architectural heritage. And there wasn’t much to begin with. I don’t judge either the church officials or the purchaser, they both saw an opportunity and took advantage of it, but I believe that a deeper understanding by the Government of what we are quickly losing is important in slowing the loss. Without a strong historical preservation movement, with teeth granted by the Government, we are going to be left with nothing but slab sided concrete buildings.
Expediency is trumping genuine societal growth. It is understandable, but by no means acceptable.
Anyway, getting back to the point. We worked hard on getting an opportunity to take some photos of St. Barnabas. Finally, with the assistance of the purchaser (to whom we owe thanks) we were given a brief chance to document the church interior. Nothing much was left, just a sad reminder of impending loss. I had many ideas of what photos I wanted, and how I was going to get them.
Unfortunately, on that final day, the priest in charge was unable to spare the time to give Mike and I the opportunity to sit (or stand, the pews were all gone) and contemplate the building and what photos would best represent what was left. Thanks to the “training” that we have been getting over the course of the last few years I think, despite the need for speed, we were able to make the most of what we were given.
Here then are some of the photos (the full album is here), among the last to be taken here; compressed contemplation:
Tell us what do you think.
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