Smoking Break : Monday 9.15pm

Smoking Break : Monday 9.15pm, Ben Dolman 2016

Over the past couple of months I have been posting photographs of the evening sky taken whilst having a smoking break in my back garden. This growing body of work started out as a playful exercise, there was no great project in mind or conceptual framework. One evening whilst sitting in my back garden the sky just caught my attention and I grab my digital camera which had a niffy fifty [cheap and basic but excellent 50mm] lens and took a picture. My usual work is based in the landscape using a large format camera, very earnest stuff.

When I took the first ‘snap shot’ I thought nothing of it but later after reviewing the photograph on my computer, something made me pause, not because it was a remarkable image but the context it was taken in which I shall explain more later about but first I wish to discuss my struggles to get interesting images from a digital camera. Most of my digital photographs have just been reference shots done when scouting for locations that might be suitable for my landscape large format film work, over the years very few digital images have made the final edit. The digital camera is an excellent camera, top the range megapixel with all the bells and whistles but I found the resultant photographs ‘subjectivity’ lacking and flat, they did not engage me is the same way as film based photography. I have been working hard to rectify this issue, my first step was to just use manual exposure and aperture settings, next was using just one fixed focal lens to make me work for the composition, best thing I have done so far and recently I have turned off the rear LCD screen, no chimping. Basically I needed to wrestle control from the camera but also to bring an element of risk to making digital photographs. Do not get me wrong the modern digital camera is a technical marvel with it’s massive iso range, the large sensor that captures a wide and forgiving dynamic latitude is truly stunning but I wanted to take the photograph and not let the camera do everything for me.

One of the things I do appreciate about digital image files is the metadata which is rich in information embedding dat such as the date, time, aperture and so on when the photograph was taken. I began to realise that I had detailed documentation of a particular activity at a certain time and in this case it was my evening smoking break, an activity that I enjoyed looking out at things whilst inhaling the intoxicating smoke from my cigarette whilst also acknowledging that this activity was killing me, I was inadvertently documenting my own self induced early demise whilst photographing the sky as the daylight hours come to a close - bugger. I will continue with making these photographs of the sky in my back garden whilst having a smoking break to remind myself of my folly.