Benedict Brain is a UK-based photographer, journalist and artist. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel. He is also a past editor of Digital Camera Magazine, and the author of You Will be Able to Take Great Photos by The End of This Book.
It’s a cliché, I know. The ‘classic road receding into the distant horizon’ rendered in black and white is perhaps the ultimate cliché, but I simply couldn’t resist. The road inspires a sense of journey and adventure, inviting and enticing me to new and far-flung locations. Perhaps as a metaphor in these crazy times, the image evokes a sense of hope and optimism.
It’s a photograph of a road in Dartmoor that was taken between ‘Lockdown 2.0’ and ‘Lockdown 3.0’. It’s not that far from where I live, but at the time it was one of the farthest places I’d travelled in the previous couple of years, so all things considered, it was relatively exotic. Cliché or not, this image suggested to me that there was a glimmer of hope on the horizon, and that maybe we were over the worst of the pandemic.
Not too long later, I should have been on a ship sailing towards Antarctica, talking to passengers about the art and craft of photography… but that trip also fell victim to pandemic restrictions.
My talks and workshops on these ships use many of the images that have been featured in this column. The ideas that I like to explore are about using photography as a way to connect; to tell stories and say something about the world. For me, good photography is not so much about Arcadian vistas bathed in magic-hour light (although that can be superficially nice, and rewarding to capture), but rather a way to explore the world with a camera and express how it feels being part of it.
Some folk, myself included, often talk about photography as a language that one can use as a tool of self-expression. As a ‘language’, photography is arguably the most widely spoken in the world. What you say with that language is important – and, like the written word, there are many ways to say it, from poets to journalists. Which kind of photographer are you? It’s worth thinking about.