Recently me and Christina sat and looked through all the holidays photos we had been on since the launch of Tenth Floor Photography. New York, Berlin, Krakow, Rome, and Barcelona. This led me onto the other shoots I had been on. This amounted to 51 to date. 51 photoshoots? That's A LOT of photos.
Good luck selling my camera with a shutter count of about 5,000,000!
I have travelled all over the place with the Tenth Floor Team, but what happens to the photos that don't make the website? Are they substandard?
When I was looking through them all, I realised that about 90% of them aren't. So what was I playing at?
I realised it was because I have a mission on each shoot. I set about to acheive a certain theme. I have never been able to take photos, well, just to take photos.
For example, in New York, I set myself the task of truly capturing winter light and shadows, shooting for black and white. Look carefully at these images:
None of these photos were seen by the Tenth Floor audience; only by my Facebook friends.
I discarded these photos because they didn't fall in line with what I wanted to achieve. I hadn't looked at them in over a year just because they didn't fall in line with a project. Does that make them redundant? I didn't even bother editing these ones. They became partners with 1,000s of other photos, never to be seen again.
I think sometimes, when you're determined to get that perfect uniform style (in this case I was shooting for atmospheric black and white), you forget that the photos in between are actually really important. The one of the light trails on the Brooklyn Bridge: deemed only Facebook worthy. The figure in the steam: never published; the street style shots in China Town: never published. Looking back on them all now, I realise how distracted I was to succeed in only one goal. I did, and they were a success, at least to me, but what did I leave behind in my wake?
Is it possible to recycle photos?
I feel that over time, your interests change, and it's important to keep checking back on those old shoots, even if you thought they were bad at the time. The only reason they were dismissed is because you were trying something new at the time and had forgotten that each photo you take is appealing in some nature, when you have an ability. Obviously some are awful. Just awful. But this New York shoot really alarmed me, and I couldn't believe I had left these behind; going from one shoot to the next, forgetting about what I had acheived in the past.
It is possible to recycle old photos. They are your work. I have now learned to embrace what I dismissed as junk and instead find meaning in what was outside of my goal at that moment in time.
It's nice to look back as well, to remember what you were thinking at that time, and the memory becomes hazy and you find yourself editing them differently, and the haziness of that memory becomes more apparent. I went on holiday to the Ice House to only shoot Glass Into Sand, but looking back only a couple of weeks at the ones I had dismissed I found some treasured photos I chose to edit:
This is just a small example of what looking at past photos can acheive. I spend so long thinking about how to push boundaries, and where that next project is going to come from to quench my creative thirst, that I forget that there is still beauty everywhere. I have worked so hard with photography that I can take this type of photo incredibly easily. In fact this was a casual stroll just when I woke up. However, you find yourself wondering. Ten years ago, if I looked at these photos, would I have thought they were taken by me? Doubt it. Even looking at something so basic as the beach ones above would have blown me away. So where do we stop?
It's in looking back sometimes. Sometimes the constant drive to better yourself drives away your ambitions. Sometimes we need to stop. Look back. Think about those old photos, and trust me, you'll start along a new path.
This doesn't mean you should stop trying to find new and unique subject matter, but try and reflect on what you were proud of some 5, 10, 20 years ago and relish in acheivement and progress. As your style and themes mature and you move away from what you used to think you needed to photograph and into conveying your feelings and what you want to say to the world. Here's one from 2005:
I thought I would never better this. I had this printed in A5 and was up on my wall for a few years. I wish I still had it printed as a reminder of the start of what would become Tenth Floor Photography. I hadn't looked at this photo for years and dug it out online just for this post, but it's a good reminder that there is, indeed, beauty in the discarded, and we need to think about our foundations all the time as we build.