Sure a degree in photography helps, but, says photographer and this publisher’s founder Ian Kenins, not having one is no impediment to taking great photographs.
Last year I had the pleasure and privilege of editing Behind The Wheel, a book of road photographs that many of Australia’s most acclaimed and widely published professional photographers submitted thousands of wonderful images to. But just as significant to the book was the contribution of some very talented amateur photographers.
Most of the amateur contributors were members of camera clubs, and a visit to one of these group’s weekly or monthly meetings is to discover that a passion for photography doesn’t just lie with paid practitioners. These dedicated groups venture out on photographic safaris, set themes to tackle with their cameras, organise competitions amongst themselves and other clubs, hold exhibitions, workshops, print books, and talk and talk and talk photography.
When spruiking the Behind The Wheel project to the Corio Bay Camera Club, member Lindsay Mason showed me a bunch of photographs taken on his travels around Australia. Three of those were published in the book, including a wonderful image of a road sign riddled with bullet holes. The setting sun shining through the punctured sign, placed just above the horizon level, is a masterclass in composition and exposure by the truck driver-cum-mechanic.
Marg Edwards is a member at the Southern Suburbs Photographic Society and another keen traveller who never leaves home without a camera. And that, any professional will tell you, is half the job. So when encountering a goat standing atop a car in a Tasmanian paddock, Marg was quick (another important skill when it comes to photojournalism, for the goat soon stepped down) and precise with her composition. Those same traits stood Janine Elphick in good stead when she spotted a driver trying to push start his broken-down Kombi van in western Victoria.
By day Lynden Smith is an accountant, but after-hours he swaps his calculator for a Canon and heads out in search of sumptuously lit landscapes. One of his photographs in Behind The Wheel is an inviting unsealed country road lined with deciduous trees in full autumnal bloom – the kind of photo that makes you wish you were there.
Other Behind The Wheel contributors included a scientist, sales rep, school teacher, journalist, hairdresser, architect and engineer. None of those are artistic pursuits, but each of those people have a passion for taking photographs and are proof that knowledge of a subject is just as important as knowing the difference between pixels and perspective. This explains why many environmentalists take great landscape photos and why twitchers make excellent bird photographers.
Our next book is about how Australians love playing cricket everywhere, and some of the most wonderful photos have again come from amateurs, such as Samantha Searle’s classic image of her nephews playing on a diary farm. Her mobile phone photo was simply meant to show what could be photographed if I turned up with my professional equipment, but hats off to Samantha – she’d already done the job brilliantly.