I am a neophile: someone with an inordinate love of novelty. I am always looking for something fresh and different and unexpected. New books to read, new exhibitions to go to, new restaurants to visit, new recipes to try. There’s a new social network? I’ll sign up for it in a flash. I love roaming around on Spotify finding new music to listen to. (Scientists even reckon that your brain lights up in a particular way when you enjoy listening to unfamiliar music.) I like going to new places, whether that’s a new country or an unfamiliar neighbourhood in London. My love of all things new, and the excitement and uncertainty and sense of adventure that they inspire in me, seems like a good topic for my first post on this new site—because my neophilia probably goes a long way towards explaining why I enjoy photography so much.
Photography is a perfect pursuit for a neophile: there’s always something new to try. A new processing technique, whether digital or analogue (like pushing film). A new lens with a different focal length that literally provides a new perspective. Occasionally, an entirely new camera system. I even spent an entire weekend doing 19th-century tintype photography. And these days there’s an endless stream of new photo apps to try, so I try all of those, too. Lately I’ve been messing around with Priime, Darkroom and Looksee. Lots of recent apps let you process images using filters created by well-known photographers, which seems to be a thing at the moment. Yes, I like following new trends in photo apps, too.
But it’s not all about the gear. An artist, after all, whether in music or photography or any other field, is someone who can produce great creative results no matter what they have to work with. New toys are fun, but another great thing about photography is that there are so many different techniques and approaches to try without needing any new equipment: like shooting silhouettes for a week, or doing some street photography, or trying a style you’re unfamiliar with, whether that’s landscapes, or portraits, or food. You can force yourself to shoot just square images for a week, or just black-and-white; constraints inspire creativity, as many artists have shown. Recently I’ve been shooting streetscapes from above and below, for example, and I’ve been alternating between horizontal and vertical images on Instagram, rather than the usual squares. I like the way it looks, and it poses a new challenge and makes me approach my mobile photography in a fresh way.
I’m always looking for new things to try, on social networks, blogs, in my own personal style and of course on Pinterest, where I have several “inspiration” boards with particular ideas or styles I want to try. Sometimes trying new things can be a bit intimidating, or you might worry about other people’s reactions, and prefer to stick with the familiar and comfortable. It’s the enjoyment of that frisson of uncertainty that drives many people, in photography and many other fields. You may be a neophile without realising it, in fact! Even if you’re not, I encourage you to embrace novelty, in your photography and in your life as a whole. Indulge your curiosity and seek surprises. Respect the old, but pursue the new.