“Photography is arguably the most widely spoken ‘language’ in the world. What you say with it is important”

Art of Seeing by Benedict Brain
The receding road is a metaphor that communicates a sense of journey, optimism and the idea of looking forward. Fujifilm GFX 50R with Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR lens. 0.6 sec at f/20, ISO 100 (Image credit: Benedict Brain)
About Benedict Brain

Benedict Brain with camera

(Image credit: Marcus Hawkins)

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.

Read more:
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Benedict Brain

Benedict Brain is a UK based photographer, journalist and artist. He graduated with a degree in photography from the Derby School of Art in 1991 (now University of Derby), where he was tutored and inspired by photographers John Blakemore and Olivier Richon, amongst others. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and also sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel.

Until July 2018 Benedict was editor of Britain’s best-selling consumer photography magazine, Digital Camera Magazine. As a journalist he met and interviewed some of the world’s greatest photographers and produced articles on a wide range of photography related topics, presented technique videos, wrote in-depth features, curated and edited best-in-class content for a range of titles including; Amateur Photographer, PhotoPlus, N-Photo, Professional Photography and Practical Photoshop. He currently writes a regular column, The Art of Seeing, for Digital Camera magazine.