Thursday, 27 December 2012

Photos of 2012: 52 weeks


The Guardian's Flickr group ‘52 weeks’ draws to a close this week. I've just uploaded my final photo. What a great project. A feature on the group recently appeared on the Guardian’s website and the group’s closing request is for members to offer some reflections on the year. So here goes.

I looked back at my half term report and am pleased to see that early enthusiasm for the project grew at about the same rate as the challenge of finding new, inspirational material. I have tried to use the group’s aims of sharing images that mark big events, personal stories or world news in 2012 as a guide. But there is also hefty doff of the cap to pragmatism when those landmark moments fail to materialise and the week was suddenly running out, leaving me to conjure a worthy snap from the garden, the sky or the street.

Surprisingly as tough was the challenge to limit the choice to only one each week when the subject matter was stronger. During the Olympics, for instance, or at a personal favourite event, the Cheltenham Festival.

Many of the subject themes are pretty predictable (in that they match my interests) and are planned or anticipated: horse racing, landscapes, sun/moonsets, architecture…

Berko Common - January
Berko Common - November
My 52 weeks slideshow is here. I thought about doing something clever with the ordering to reflect recurring subject themes – of which there were surprisingly many. But the main point of the project for me is simply to record the year in weekly photos. On that basis, the only way to view the topic is as a chronological journey. I used to organise my LP collection by genre, sub theme, alphabetically and release date. But I’m feeling better now.

But the beauty of the project has been that it should not and can not be planned. And so there also many spontaneous shots or the ones taken because I’m running out of time. Someone famous once said that “The best camera is the one that you have with you”, which is absolutely right and plays so much to the strengths of the smart phone. More than half my snaps are collected when an opportunity presents itself. Including when inching our way up the A64 in a screaming blizzard one night in Autumn when I demanded of Mrs A, behind the wheel, to “put the lights on full beam, I think I can get a great shot!”

A64 blizzard through the windscreen
Some images I hunted down with the zeal of a missionary. I had spotted a series of striking graffiti tags on the side of a disused carriage near Willesden Junction from my train. I had failed to capture it on many ocassions: too much reflection; too much speed; too much self-conciousness in a packed commuter car to put the lens up against the window… The image I ended up with wasn’t quite as good as the one rattling around in my head. But it is odd what can be picked up in the Flickr community. This became a multiple addition to the photostreams of ten or so graffiti artists around the capital whom I suspect were collecting evidence of their own work!

Graffiti train, Willseden
I’ve loved experimenting with the apps and learnt loads from the other members of the group. If you’d asked me to tilt-shift in December 2011 I would have attempted some yet-to-be-invented yoga manipulation. I have since become au fait with this and many other sassy moves. I am a full-on snapseed drama groupie. Perhaps that’s the theme of the year – the massive growth of phone and tablet based filters, editing tools and photo sharing. Who could have predicted eighteen months ago that Instagram would be sold to Facebook for $1 billion?

Nevertheless I still found myself returning to my point-and-press compact camera and back to the bulky, but trusty, DSLR when there was a particular shot I was measuring up. 

The group sharing has been the key to the success of the project. I have shamelessly stolen approaches and techniques from many other members and can only aspire to many of the great collections in the group. I’ve long admired the soft themes and brilliant use of light in Helen Ogbourn's photos; Daviocious captures incredible colours and detail; and check out Scouser_Steve's great scope.

My collection seems scattergun and eclectic by comparison. But that’s OK. I have felt able to stretch out and test ideas here. If not all have worked, well then that’s just part of the learning curve. There are a few here I’m really pleased with and ultimately this serves as a tremendous personal record of the year shared with others who have the same or similar ambitions.

Roll on 52:2013…


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