My Greatest Ambition…..

Lately I have been drawn to photograph what I would have at one time passed right by.  Its ever since I read Thoughts on Landscape by Frank Gohlke.  Gohlke was one of the original group of photographers who became collectively known as the New Topographics following an exhibition of the same name that featured their work in the 1970’s.  If you haven’t read Thoughts on Landscape then I can recommend it.  Its a collection of essays that made me reflect on my own work and why I was photographing what I was photographing and even how I was photographing it.  In the book there is a quotation from Brassai that I absolutely love and one I would have tattooed onto my forehead but it wouldn’t fit!  Here it is:  “I think that it is daily life which is the great event, the true “reality” …. My greatest ambition is is to do something new and striking using the banal and commonplace to show an aspect of daily life as if one were seeing it for the first time”  As a photographer I cannot think of a better mission statement.  One of the functions surely of photography is to re-examine what is right under your nose, to get a different perspective on things that you assume you already know?

Anyway at around the same time I read this book I also read Land Matters by Liz Wells which is another book I would readily recommend.  I came across the work of Jem Southam  who’s  “trademark is the patient observation of changes at a single location over many months or years.”  This of course got me thinking about the everyday and about working on a longer term series of images of the same area, the same place and repeating the same shot over a longer period of time.  So thats what I have been doing, for over a year now and here are some of the images that capture the small almost minuscule changes that happen over time:


Winter 2012/13.  This was really the start of the project.


Summer 2013 and what a summer it was!  Probably the warmest for a decade!  Between these two images you see the greatest, the most obvious contrast in the seasons, the hedgerow is bursting with life and full of flowers.

This is winter 2013/14.  The good thing about re visiting the same place is that it can make you use your imagination.  This is the same shot with the same framing as the one above but here I have used an ND filter to shoot a longer exposure.  You can see the movement in the trees and also the clouds.  One of the big features of where I live in the west of Ireland is the wind.  It is howling around the house even now as I write, cosy and warm in my studio.


Autumn last year.  The change in the colours of the trees is obvious but also the growth in the hedge row is beginning to die off.


Spring 2014.  This was taken last week.  I really became aware when I was there last week of how the changes in the natural world seem to creep up on us humans.  It seems like nothing has changed and then all of a sudden – bang!  spring has sprung again, we blink and we have missed it.  The changes are so subtle here, the grass is greener and the hedgerow has been cut.  In Ireland this is a major seasonal marker, a clue to the current season being photographed.  Hedge cutting is illegal after the end of March and before the end of August because of nesting birds.


These trees have long fascinated me.  They stand out so much in the landscape, towering above everything else.  They are beech trees and the reason they have grown like this because they were planted close together.  I am told they are over 150 years old.  Photography has many uses and one of the best is to preserve and record, to document the changing landscape and the changing world.  Who knows how much longer they will be here?  Who knows how much longer everything that we take for granted, that we see everyday will be there.  Sometimes we only notice something (or someone)when its gone.

Do you have a regular project that you are shooting like mine?  What is it?  Would you consider starting one?  Please leave me a comment and tell me all about it!

About briancooney123

HOW I GOT HERE Of course, I wasn’t always a full time photographer. I spent a lot of time in the corporate world. I had a job which paid well, but just didn’t excite me. I remember the day when I had had enough. Enough of selling myself short, enough of dreaming too small, enough of doing what others expected of me. I had put away my dreams and told myself I would get back to them later, but somehow there always seemed to be something else that had to get done first. A friend of mine had recommended I take the NLP Business Practitioners course, and although I was really busy, I decided to do it. During that time, I began to imagine the different paths my life could take from here. While I had a hazy picture of what this other life might look like, I had a clear picture of where my current life was going if I didn’t change. It was a scary moment, a bit like standing on the edge of a cliff deciding whether to jump into the great unknown or stay on the cliff, safe but trapped. I jumped. The transition to the life I wanted was challenging The transition to the life I wanted was challenging but I would never go back. After that day I resolved to do what I love, to follow my bliss.  Picking up a camera after several years away, I found that many things had changed, the digital age had arrived. In the intervening years, I was too busy to pay any attention to my photography, and occasionally when I took something I really liked, I would think “how do some photographs seem so captivating and others leave me completely cold?” I knew this is what I was meant to do Somehow though, I knew this is what I was meant to do. I dedicated myself to learning everything I could about being a photographer. I took many, many courses and I read every book I could get my hands on, I still do. Since then, I have dedicated myself to helping other creative photographers achieve the results they want. And what a journey it has been. Last year I qualified as a coach. My main area of interest is creativity and helping others to express their vision. WHAT I BELIEVE Along the way, I’ve learnt that there are no rules. Experiment, explore, play. My advice is to make your art from your heart, not for the praise or the money.  Lighten up. It’s important to take your photography seriously, but it's a mistake to take yourself too seriously. Finally, you get what you want when you never, ever give up so enjoy every minute of it and just do it!
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