Forgoing the obvious music and art references for which Vienna (and indeed Austria) is world famous, to walk through Vienna is to pass back through time, an era where village ‘curtain-twitcher’ culture exists hand-in-hand with a more modern, technological city pulse.
Passing Palais after identical Palais from Passau to Bratislava, Austria certainly sets the style for architectural design amongst its annexed neighbours. The Hapsburgs once monopolised this vast swath of Europe; from Spain to Romania the empire built grandiose stone-hewn structures to celebrate their nobility and dominance, just cycle the Danube and you’ll see what I mean. By European standards the Hapsburgs were the alpha-males of empirical tact, expanding and conquering with all the finesse of professional Risk players. The empire however (as empires so often prove) could not stand up to the tests of time and after brief resurgences in the mid-18th and early-20th centuries, effectively withdrew from their sprawling empirical roots to settle in a musical bubble of historical reminiscence. With wine. Lots of wine.
Forgoing the obvious music and art references for which Vienna (and indeed Austria) is world famous, to walk through Vienna is to pass back through time, an era where village ‘curtain-twitcher’ culture exists hand-in-hand with a more modern, technological city pulse. One can find themselves standing in the shadows of awe-inspiring panelled Cathedral roofs, at the base of monolithic Romanesque churches, in the doorways of cream-stone governmental structures that cast imposing scars on the landscape. But turn a corner from these hot spots, away from the brash camera-toting tourists and hordes of Black Mirror cultists, and one finds the cobble stoned streets lined with bustling wooden-decked tabacs and salons, pokey red-leathered wine bars spilling smoke and wine from their slightly ajar single windows, whilst overpriced antiques’ stores harbour skeletal remains from Austria’s shady past and share prime shop frontage with the latest McShark and Spar Gourmet. Vienna is certainly a fascinating European city to explore on foot, but treat yourself to a tram ride in an original 1970s High Floor tramcar (Type E1) and you really have travelled back in time. The #1 to and from Prater Hauptallee is arguably my favourite, whilst other routes to Grinzing and Baden come in close behind.
From a social perspective, the daily routine in Vienna is just that; routine. Public transport runs like clockwork, refuse is collected frequently and on-time, the streets are clean, the air is fresh, and the water the cleanest in the world. Or so I’m repeatedly told by the locals. The city consistently tops-trumps in global leader boards for standards of living, perhaps even offering a lifestyle for which there is no ‘better’ alternative. But dig deeper and one finds an all too familiar elitist conservatism nurturing nationalist idealism, born, no doubt, from historical pride and, indeed, failure. Racism is arguably rife amongst certain strands of the city hordes, propelled and fuelled by meddling far-right fear mongers spreading questionable vitriolic monologues throughout all seams of society. Being British, I’m no stranger to this type of political propaganda, I’m fairly sure our politicians invented it, and with daily Austrian headlines invariably targeting foreigners and their inherent ‘threat’ to traditional Austrian values, it’s a sickening disease to witness pervading Austrian culture. I can’t help but think this collective hatred is nothing new, that perhaps it’s been here all the time, lurking in the dark just waiting to be stoked by deluded false martyrs. But if this fear and hatred is the social cost of reaching for utopia, I think I’ll settle for somewhere a little less liveable.
Shooting analogue was a combination of artistic bliss and personal bankruptcy, so when digital cameras hit the market we all thought the same thing: win win. But after 15 years shooting digital, my field-work attitude had shifted for the worse; I became accustomed to the high FPS my Nikons could turn over, became lazy when bracketing for HDR, began to abuse high ISO, just accepting the grain in all weather. I’d even leave my tripod at home and just make do with image stabilistion. Above all, I’d become lazy, relying on technology to finish a process I’d start in my mind. I didn't start like that during my analogue days; back then it was sacrilege to 'fill the buffer', as it were - we thought, composed, and captured with each and every click. Romanticised maybe, but true.
So I changed.
Capturing one solid image for a collection is pretty easy, anyone can take a great image with a bit of skill, practise, and luck. Seriously, anyone. Two great images - still not hard and sometimes they even look good together. Three, four, and five start taxing the cranium; you need to start thinking ahead, above, and beyond. You start to sweat. Working up to ten images takes dedication, time, and skill, but once you have your collection, you get a real sense of achievement.
Forcing ourselves to select a limited number of images amongst an infinite number of possibilities enables us to think deeper about our photography, it gives us motivation and focus during times of lack-luster malaise, and it aligns our thoughts, encouraging exploration and thematic expression in collections.
IOIMG isn't typically about obsessive image matching for competitions or exhibitions (although I'd go so far as to say the images in your collections should, in some way, compliment each other), nor is it particularly constrained when choosing subjects or themes for image pools; I like to use IOIMG as more of a guiding principle designed to help maintain standards and encourage exploration in my photography as I explore the many different avenues within the discipline.
Without a guide, we'd get lost.