Back in the naughties (which weren’t as naughty as I would have liked) it was all about personal branding. As a wide eyed wannabe photographer I followed the time honoured tradition of obsessing over hideously expensive cameras, lighting gear, lenses, and thinking up a good name for my soon to be awesome business. And of course avoiding shooting and actually developing my craft.
I spent a lot of time developing out a brand, thinking up a name (seriously, how perfect is f/otographique?) and building out a website to display my soon to be awesome photos. And continued to avoid shooting.
When I did shoot I didn’t really have any idea what to say. I got technically better but the images were frankly boring. And honestly I got a bit disillusioned. I still wanted to be a photographer but I couldn’t see a pathway. Photography has so many possibilities and it’s easy to get lost into trying to do everything instead of getting good at doing one thing.
A couple of years ago I had an idea. Shoot film. Slow down and think about what I am doing. Look for a meaning to each photo rather than fire off a few hundred and hope. The transition to film have been a life saver for me. It’s forced me to work harder, think more, and expose my feelings more in my photos. It’s helped me to find a voice in my work and to focus on my style.
It’s easier to hide behind a brand, behind a mask. If people don’t like what you do, it doesn’t matter, it’s only business. But it’s hard to put yourself out as yourself. The images I shoot that mean something to me, represent me. So if people don’t like them, it feels personal. But I’ve come to realize that you have to take the risk. You have to be yourself and say something. Otherwise you might as well just download stock photos from the internet and pretend.
So. I’m putting the old branding in the back of the drawer and focusing on being me. Just me and my photos. And hopefully something interesting to say.
From now on, I’m Simon Chester.
This is one of my favourite images I’ve taken. It represents everything I want to achieve (at the moment anyway!)