Was it Picasso…

This is something I’ve submitted to our local community blog:

Was it Picasso who said “good artists, copy; great artists, steal?” Maybe it was TS Eliot? Maybe Madame Apo Cryphal? It doesn’t really matter since it conveys the basic idea that no artist, of any level of talent or ambition, is an island.

You learn to write by writing and reading and it is the same with photography. My affair with photography started while I was studying medicine at Wits. I acquired an excellent Penguin primer on the basic physics of photography and light and a camera, and hied myself down to the zoo. Those images were the start of thousands of slides collected over the years on trips of various kinds or as records of family holidays or events. Like most such they generally rotted quietly away in drawers, boxes, envelopes. A few made it into albums and scrapbook collections of writing, postcards and personal photos which I still treasure.

Retirement roughly coincided with the “great digital revolution”, but it took a few years before I began to take up photography as a serious hobby. My early adventures with the new technology are quite comical in retrospect but I was seriously hooked. It is difficult to even name my own mentors. The names of Edward Weston, Cartier-Bresson, Annie Leibovitz, Ansel Adams, Stieglitz and Steichen spring to mind. South Africans like David Goldblatt, Obie Oberholzer, and Jurgen Schadeberg were, and still are, inspiring and the wonderful world of wildlife photography is captured in the annual show presented by the South African Museum. But the list is invidious and abysmally incomplete.
Of course, the internet and exponential growth of digital software has also revolutionised the photographic environment and the flood of images ranging from the cutesy and banal to the arresting and original is ceaseless. Given a tendency to attention deficit disorder and other demands on my time I remain an eager amateur, permanently anchored to the first half of the learning curve.

I try to combine moving with static images, linking them together with music and words to create a story and an immersive environment. Uncommitted to any specific genre, subject matter or deadline I am free to create, or waste my time. I do both. Attached to this short story, in the gallery on top left, are some recent images emerging from our wonderful village.

So in the end it is the canvas of life and my own imperfect engagement with it which is the greatest teacher and source of inspiration. Surely that is true for almost everyone.

Mike Berger

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