I met a man one day who took test shots. Not for a living…but to give him a reason for living. He was a camera enthusiast…perhaps a collector, or maybe just a man who had never gotten rid of old things. Optically costive, if you will.
Other people had gotten rid of him. When I met him first he was in his house, and when I met him next he was in a rented flat…having been kicked out of home. The last meeting was in an even smaller flat, and I cannot even begin to speculate about those circumstances.
In all three instances we had a good old chat about cameras and showed some of the devices that had come to us. He brought out some test shots that had been taken with older folding cameras – tests that showed the resolution of the 1930’s lenses vs the resolution of the 1950’s lenses. Quite what one was supposed to make of it was a mystery, other than reflecting that 6 years of Allied bombing may have disrupted the production line a little…None of the test shots were of memorable, happy, or artistic subjects. Brick walls featured in many.
I was reminded of this experience when I saw some of the ” street photography ” test shots on my favourite camera rumour site. I recognise the motif – I am drawn to it myself – it has the artistic name of ” Oh Dear God, What Can I Point The Camera At Now “. It is the aesthetic of people who need to operate the machinery but have nothing to say whilst doing so.
In my case I have an excuse – commerce. I’m writing columns for a camera shop to sell equipment and the things I write about need to be illustrated with some form of image. I use model cars for close-ups, the street view for medium distances, and a local light-plane airport for distant views. If the camera shop I sell my writing to was a little less strait-laced I’d get local cabaret dancers to shed their clothing for illustrations. Or I’d save money by stripping myself. Not a fun option in cold weather…
The moral of this tale is to look carefully at what you take pictures of. If you have shrunk to taking test shots only, either get yourself a gig doing commercial illustration or take to strong drink and start doing nudies in the local skateboard park. They can only arrest you so many times and in any case you will lay down the foundation of a really good portfolio in the fetish market. Capitalise on it.