I recently gave a presentation where I attempted to answer the question, ‘what is photography?’

In a previous blog post I gave a more generic answer I wasn’t too happy with, I didn’t answer what photography meant to me personally. So in my presentation, I aimed to give more of my own personal input.

Photography comes from two Greek words. ‘Photos’ meaning light, and ‘Graphè’ meaning drawing or writing.

The term ‘photography’ was coined by French painter Hercule Florence and it basically means ‘printing with light’. Light is the most important part of any photograph and we can manipulate it on many ways.

In these photographs, I used light to cast shadows for dramatic effect.

With the graphè part of photography, when we write or draw, we are creating. We are telling a story. And with these photographs, I wanted her style; her clothes, her poses and the lighting to reveal her character as the femme fatale.

However, a story doesn’t need to be invented for the sake of photography. We can tell a real story as it happens. Time passes by so quickly and without the aid of photography we have only our memories that can fade over time. By taking this photograph, I have helped capture a fleeting moment for them to keep forever, and they have something to mark the start of their story.

But for me, it is experimentation that is at the heart of photography. Photography wouldn’t exist now if it weren’t for early inventors experimenting with ways to retain an image.

Various methods were used before eventually the camera as we know it was perfected, and it is in thanks to people like Niepcè and Daguerre who carried on experimenting.

Image by Timothy Pakron
Own image, inspired by Timothy Pakron

In this photograph by Timothy Pakron (left), he used developer to expose only parts of the image. He leaves the interpretation open to the viewer, and I feel this is about identity. Or more specifically, the loss of identity.

I was inspired by this piece of work to create my own (right), though unfortunately on the day of shooting I was unable to find any 35mm film. Rather than be put off, I attempted the shoot with my DSLR and experimented in Photoshop to create a similar effect. I don’t think it’s as powerful as it could have been, but the message is still clear.

I am an artist at heart but I can’t produce anything good with a paintbrush, so I love to experiment with photography to create my art. The images below were created by photographing smoke and then by adding colour in Photoshop.

I experimented further with the same images to create a mandala effect (below). These are pieces of art that I would be happy to display in my own home.

Although, I have been debating with myself over whether this is really photography. While they would not have been possible for me to create without using photography, the resulting image is completely different to the original image and has become more of a photographic art piece, rather than a photograph.

In any case, whether you consider this to be photography or not, photography provided me with a way to create the artwork I otherwise could not have made.

Here, I experimented with water. I used xanthan gum to thicken it and added milk to increase the opacity. After several attempts, I finally caught this bell shape.

Below, I’ve experimented more with different consistencies and adding colour through coloured gels.

I love photographing people in the studio, and I love spending time with my camera in nature, photographing the local wildlife. But just as experimentation was involved in the creation of photography, it is a heavy part of my own practice.