I have had a sneaking suspicion that I suffer from, and have for a long time, Photographic Dyslexia. Whether it actually exists is a matter for debate, but, I’m sure I’ve had it to some degree or another for a number of years, but of late the symptoms have become more and more apparent, and it’s worrying me!
The first symptoms occurred as long ago as the early ‘80’s when I first took up photography and joined a camera club. Within the club was a group of about half a dozen members that had decided that the photographic vogue of the time was stilted and showed no artistic merit. So in order to change things they would seek out the innovators of the day and study and discuss their work. I think they saw themselves as the avante garde of the photographic world. I always had a sneaking suspicion that as they never did very well in club competitions and their work was never ‘understood’ by judges, they would shut themselves away from the photographic proletariat and set up on their own, still taking advantage of the clubs premises and facilities of course. Well they were after all members!
So this is where my affliction began, and where I noticed the early stirrings of the disease.
You have to remember that I was but a newcomer to photography, and like now had a lot to learn. So keen to expand my appreciation and knowledge I went along to this exciting and challenging group.
I recall vividly the first meeting. A member of the group had brought along a series of black and white images of a recent visit he’d paid to a garden somewhere or other. Since most garden are green in the summer there was very little tonal range in any of the pictures, so an overall mid grey predominated. O.K. the trimmed box hedges did make some sort of pattern within the images but nothing remarkable.
The reaction of the assembled members was one of orgasmic delight with congratulations all round at the perceptive and artistic endeavours made by the photographer. I felt very left out and dreaded anyone asking me to give my reaction to the pictures. I was well into my forties at this stage and had always remembered my dad’s advice, “If you can’t say anything good about anything, say nothing”.
If I had said what I wanted to say I could imagine the looks of distain that would have been given in my direction. However it shattered my confidence because I was left with this feeling that if these sorts of photograph could engender such delight in what I at the time thought were accomplished photographers, and I couldn’t see why. I was doomed from the outset, or perhaps I had photographic dyslexia!!
It still happens today. I still see pictures in exhibitions that are presented with gold medals and all sorts of accolades, and I can’t see for the life of me why.
I am particularly prone to a severe outbreak whenever I visit the Photographers’ Gallery in London!
Nevertheless I shall fight on and bear my disability with fortitude and continue to enjoy pictures that I can appreciate and applaud.