©Marie Smith. Image taken from series 28-09-2017

©Marie Smith. Image taken from series 28-09-2017


Can you always press the shutter? Essay written for Scenario Podcast blog, March 2019

This photo doesn’t truly reflect how I was feeling at time but I’m always drawn to the light as it radiates optimism. At the time I was depressed, physically exhausted and desperate for a bit of quiet. I didn’t get much of that, I had been up since 5am and felt sweaty and underprepared for the warm autumnal glow that greeted me. 

Climbing up the stairs to the top flat was the last thing that I was prepared for but the architecture and light felt very welcoming and I came across this silhouette on the second to last stair case to my friends flat in Berlin. I was immediately drawn to the precise, constructed silhouette and my brain went into overdrive and the impulse to capture this composition felt instinctive but my body was too detached to engage with the concept of taking an image and besides my camera was buried in the depth of my bag.

I had brought with me a very simple point and shoot camera, Minolta Riva which I got from a charity shop in Clapham, it was basic but this basic camera had taught me a lot about the cognitive structures of my brain and about myself as a photographer. My instincts had been crafted with this camera and I trusted that everything that I shot on this camera would come out ok. 

The next day I went past this same composition again, I was glad that I was being given another opportunity to capture this image but I still didn’t feel the frantic need to take the photo. I become hesitant and felt that maybe I should leave it alone, enjoy the composition for what it was and keep the moment private, after all I was on holiday! 

On the day before I was due to leave, I was sat in my friends kitchen watching her potter around the house, she had a new housemate moving in and I was left to my own devices. I was feeling awkward and slightly anxious in the flat so I went outside asI had nowhere to else to go to be honest. The silhouette was reflecting on the stairs again, the warmth felt comforting and the silence was much needed. The combination of the light and silence made me feel less anxious and I that I had found a space that I could call my own. 

I went back inside the flat found my camera and came down the stairs to take the photo, I took one shot. I didn’t think it was necessary to make anymore. When I pressed the shutter and heard the noise of the film winding to the next frame, I felt a sense of closure and I was able to enjoy the light on the stairs. 

I didn’t feel any less depressed and I was still knackered but in that moment I was able to focus on the activity of taking a photograph. I’ve always found photography as an acton to remove myself from my consciousness, its temporary but the acton of taking a photo, especially on film cognitively effects my engagement with my environment. The shift is not only mental but sometimes I feel a physical release of tension, it’s a strange sensation to try and define. 

When I got the film developed I was pleased that the photo had come out so well, it was clear and crips and the contrast is sharp. It’s a beautiful photo and its funny to reflect on it now as I was feeling so bleak but on reflection I did get some relief. This photo has no negative connotations for me. 

Can you always press the shutter?

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