Why I Gave Up Art to Be a Photographer

From a young age I dedicated a significant amount of my time to drawing.  I couldn’t tell you how I started, or why I enjoyed it so much, but I guess it just felt natural.

My art education consists of being told to copy an object that lay on the table, and at a later stage being told that I must have an academically acceptable deeper meaning behind my drawings.  But despite this, my art education consisted of drawing during every possible lesson on every available scrap of paper, for no other reason than that I enjoyed it.

Drawing was art to me, and it didn’t matter to me whether anyone else thought so or not.  In fact, I never understood the obsession with obsessing over history and lists of art idols that I was supposed to care about.

Nevertheless, I survived exposure to establishment-imposed rules and ideas and made it out of school without an art qualification to sully my name with meaningless initials.

I had never been one to work on what would probably be called in art-speak today “a tightly-edited, coherent series”.  What I did instead, was to work on identity.  Graffiti writers distinguished themselves firstly by their names, and then, if they were any good, by their style.  But my idea was to be without identity, to create and use many different styles and names so that from an outside perspective each piece could look like it was drawn by someone different.

In addition to this “incoherence”, I very rarely completed a drawing, which along with being another blow to my marketability, also became a source of personal frustration in the long run.  Bad posture and other bad habits lead to pain from drawing, which lead to less and less time spent doing so.  The nail in the coffin came in the form of photography: a ghostly spectre that had once frightened the canvas-bound oil painters of yesteryear.  Digital photography was a quick fix for someone like me used to spending hours and hours on intricate details, and often getting nowhere in the process.  Now my images were complete instantaneously.  There were no unfinished outlines or missing colours, and what’s more is that each image was a regular size and shape, and could easily be made to conform to any other format, and as a bonus I didn’t have to suffer in the process!

Photography was a great way of bringing order to a once chaotic practice.  No longer would my life be full of scraps of paper and shamefully unfinished sketches, instead everything would be neatly arranged on a hard drive out of sight.

My decision to study photography in technical terms was coupled with a discovery of the medium through documentaries and the internet.  I soon learned that professional, respected, credible and above all, mature way of doing photography was to work on a series, a topic or subject in homogeneous form.  Ironically, my first real series was about homogeneity itself.

It was as if the disembodying nature of photography had to be tamed in order to reassure everyone that life was less chaotic and more meaningful.

In effect I learned that to be accepted or at least become more acceptable, I would have to be more consistent and to put a brave face on things.