The Colour Blue by Tony Gaskins
The pursuit of a visual style is a creative ambition, a goal that, for some, takes us on a journey of many years and is a process of discovery and awakening. Over the years I've been attentive to the thoughts of other landscape photographers and tried to understand when some have talked about their motivations, emotions and what their photography intends to portray such as calmness, drama, simplicity, stillness, joy, pathos, etc. I've failed in my attempts to emulate this in my photography. The pursuit of photographic philosophies and styles has ended in failure, leaving me flitting from one person's observations to another and causing nagging doubt of being a mimic or at best some kind of photographic Chameleon.
One might think that one abandoned strategy after another to develop a photographic style would lead towards frustration and de-motivation. From one abandoned idea after another, my motivation and love of landscape photography have been undiminished, despite not finding my photographic nirvana. Enjoyment of the great outdoors and being away from the distractions and pressures of modern life were, of course, major factors in the continuing delight I take in pursuit of making landscape photographs.
By now some of you who have taken the time to read this (thank you by the way) will be thinking what has this got to do with the colour blue. Around 6 months ago a photographer who had seen some of my work commented
"You have a calm style and use blue as a calming influence".
This really was a light bulb moment for me, the comment brought about a sudden realisation that I had unconsciously created my style and approach to landscape photography. To confirm my thoughts I reviewed some of my older and more recent images, blue predominates, as do coastal and seascape images with some long exposures, I realised I definitely have my own style. What's more, I'd had it for years but didn't recognise it until a stranger pointed it out.
I realise I've been finding solace in tranquil images and have been drawn to the colour blue because of its calming effect and how it emphasises what I'm trying to communicate. I think that's why my motivation and enjoyment didn't waiver because, at a subconscious level, I was fulfilling my emotional needs.
My recognition stopped me in my tracks and for about two months I didn't touch my camera. I couldn't see or plan images, I became demotivated and confused. My use of social media dwindled and I stopped sharing images. I think the transfer of a sub-conscious process to a conscious one was confusing and inhibited my creativity. I spent a lot of time reviewing and re-editing old and recent images, only to find I preferred my original edits.
I decided to make a little album (about 20 images) called 'Blue' on my Flickr page and... hey presto! That was it. My photographer's block was gone. Seeing those images together showed me that I have a style and an approach to photography but that I can and do abandon this approach when I think it's necessary. Doing this one simple thing gave me the recognition that, on a subconscious level, I was finding solace and peace in an ever confusing and complex world through my photography.
I've also come to realise that this end result is no different to the conscious or deliberate choices other photographers apply to their work. This reconciled that internal conflict and has enabled me to consciously pursue a style and realise I'm not a photographic mimic, as I feared, and that my creative processes are valid and my own. All it took was a stranger's comment and seeing the colour blue as a theme and 10 years of image-making to realise it.
An interest in photography became a passion when I discovered landscape photography as a genre. Being able to connect with the physical world be it urban, rural, coastal, woodland or wilderness and have time to appreciate the varieties of light, weather and seasons and how they influence our environment keeps me engaged as a photographer.
My preference is to portray the landscape to capture the mood and emotions it stirs in us. Pretty much the first thing we do in the morning is to look out of the window to see what the light is like and how the weather might shape our day. In my mind, I have just taken that norm to its conclusion.
I view landscape photography as a privilege. It has allowed me to witness and record sunrises, sunsets, storms and many different events that will never be repeated. I love to look at landscape photographs and I hope someone viewing my images will enjoy them also.