It’s almost a year since I discovered Martin Bailey’s incredible photography podcast and was inspired by him to put together a first top ten images of 2014. After a year exploring his 500+ diligently produced podcasts, time has rolled around. Putting together a 2015 top ten has been in my thoughts for a couple of weeks, and I thought I’d share it here along with a loud recommendation everyone who doesn’t conduct an annual review of their work considers it.
Really I can’t outline the reasons for doing so better than Martin’s post in which he shares his top ten and selection process. Rather than repeat what he already says so eloquently, I just wanted to log a few points here by way of personal footnote, before sharing the images themselves as much for personal reference and to crystalise the whole selection process in my head ready for another year’s shooting.
Firstly, I’d definitely suggest a single set of ten images across all of the genres you shoot. While I understand the argument for compiling a landscape selection, a wildlife selection and so forth, it misses out the real challenge and the real learnings. Chiefly I’d suggest that compiling a top ten within a genre isn’t that far different from what we do everyday as photographers. Typically we have multiple shots of most subjects, and we compare different expressions, angles, sharpnesses-of-eyes, etc. to come up with a best image within a set of “similars” to ultimately utilise. Selecting between similar images then, is something we all address as a pretty mundane activity then.
Making comparisons between genres is far more interesting, and far more challenging. For one thing it’s not mundane. It’s rare we’re called upon to choose between, say, a tilt-shift shot of otters at sunset and a strobist street portrait of a Parisian stranger. It’s much harder to approach and I find the typical, easy guidelines we might use to sift between similars melt away. The comparison of shots becomes about the basic essentials beneath the surface; do they evoke the mood, the scene, the emotion? Do they capture the imagination? Do they transport the viewer, do they connect? As we can’t make easy comparisons, we’re forced to consider and explore the more subjective and wild dimensions of our work, and that I find brings new insight onto what we did well and what we missed.
Secondly, both years I’ve found it a useful exercise in stepping back and pausing to consider intent, direction and the path ahead. This year Lightroom tells me I shot 7,853 images (not including the instant deletions). Of that I’ve so far “used” around 350 (across Flickr, Getty and family dispatches). In that mad rush of shooting, it’s hard really to take stock of where we’re up to and where we’re going. I’m not going to ramble about my personal learnings from that review here, but merely note that without this review – this quick check of the map, or recalibration – it’s easy to lose direction and start shooting without conscious intent or goal.
One final thought perhaps is that to me this process is about a harmonious set. These aren’t a ranked 1 to 10, rather a gallery that I hope balances and resonates together in a generally coherent way. There are some stranger portraits from the year, for instance, which I consider stronger shots that the final candid of Jessica dancing. With those substituted, however, the set somehow lacked the spark of life to lift it from a series of gathered images to a distinct whole in its own right.
In sharing mine top ten though, my main advice would be to check Martin’s post on the matter. His process is a thing of wonder, and it’s thoughtfully described in detail. Have an amazing New Year though, everyone, and safe travel to all!