Advice — Take a stroll: Laura Pannack on staying present and spontaneous as a photographer
A few of years ago, we spoke to photographer Laura Pannack about the importance of unpredictability and the spontaneity in her work. As a timeless reflection on process, we’re re-sharing her thoughts on staying both patient and present behind the camera, and how analogue photography forces her not to take any moment for granted.
Taking a stroll with camera is a simple way to remind myself why I enjoy looking, seeing and thinking – free from the limitations of a set brief.
Although photography can be beautifully isolating, sharing images is part of the growing process and that can be hard. I think sometimes just the act of taking images or giving yourself time to consider it as an option can be a gentle reminder of its more therapeutic nature. It encourages you to be in the moment, rather than being reactive or purposely productive.
Some of the best scenes and moments I witness don’t translate into images, and I can only notice this when I slow down, attend to the now and be patient.
Sometimes nothing happens. I have learnt to accept that some walks are less generous than others, and this is often where good company can be a saviour. I sometimes play ‘train roulette’ for fun, and select a destination on the ticket machine at random. The success of a day can never be measured by the number of film rolls used.
“It’s unpredictable as to when a moment or scene will inspire you.”
Taking a walk also teaches me how photography can’t be forced. It’s all about decisions. Do I capture this moment? Why and how? A reminder that I have a little box to freeze time is something I don't want to take for granted.
This is another reason I mainly shoot on analogue – to really appreciate a picture and think before I shoot it. It’s also fascinating to walk with other photographers and have an insight into what magnetically pulls their eye.
It’s unpredictable as to when a moment or scene will inspire you. It’s a unique high, derived from the spontaneity that only occurs when you take a stroll and have a look around. I guess it’s really just that simple.
Laura is a London-based portrait and social documentary photographer. Her work has been exhibited at The National Portrait Gallery, Somerset House, The Royal Festival Hall and the Houses of Parliament, and has won awards such as the John Kobal Award, the Juliet Margaret Cameron award, Prix de la photographie, World Press Photo and the Vic Odden award.
This piece was originally published in 2016 as part of our advice series on starting out.
Head image by Laura; find more of her work at laurapannack.com