I have recently returned from a holiday in Spain. One of the many things I enjoy about holidays is the opportunity to take photographs in somewhere unfamiliar. Anyone who has been subjected to my many holiday snaps will be able to attest to both of these things.
Photography used to be one of my main hobbies. I learnt the art on an old manual Praktica and took a black & white photography course which led to me owning my own darkroom for a time. Despite the prohibitive cost of film and processing I could be found most weeks snapping away.
As time has gone on my camera equipment has improved, become more automatic and, inevitably, turned digital. Over the same period, however, my interest seems to have waned. These days I rarely take pictures except for special occasions or with the specific purpose of using them in my books.
On this holiday, though, my creative juices were reawakened. We went to Spain to visit my wife’s family, Andy and Jan. Andy is also a keen snapper and, although I like to think that when on form my photography is prolific and I try to go beyond the conventional, compared to him I am restrained and my snaps are distinctly mundane.
Spurred on by Andy I rediscovered some of my old enthusiasm for photographic experimentation. And of course this is the great thing about digital: you can just fire away without the worry of needing a second mortgage to pay for the prints at the end of it. Maybe this makes photography less thoughtful, but it also allows for more creative abandon.
And so it was that we found ourselves in Castillo de Santa Barbara in Alicante with cameras almost permanently welded to our faces. On the battlements were a number of old cannons (big guns, not cameras) and I was exploring the possibilities of texture in the rusted metal and weathered wooden supports when I came upon an ‘F’ stamped on the side of the gun.
It transpired that Andy had also photographed the ‘F’. ‘Hmm…’ I pondered aloud, ‘I wonder if we could manage to photograph the whole alphabet…’
And so a challenge was born. My plan was to shoot actual letters; Andy poo-pooed this, suggesting instead that we find naturally occurring letters. I settled on a mixture of both. And what a great idea! Suddenly you are looking beyond just ‘things’ to photograph, considering instead the raw shapes and textures of the world around you. It opens up a whole new creative way of thinking.
I didn’t manage the whole alphabet – just 16 letters out of 26 – but it was fun. My results so far are shown here. I haven’t seen Andy’s yet – I suspect he is prevaricating until he has a full set.
I will continue the project, perhaps for the rest of my photographing days, but somehow since I got home I can’t seem to see letters any more. Perhaps familiarity breeds complacency, but I will persevere.