Quite a while ago, before I got into film photography and was still shooting with vintage lenses on a digital body, I did a photo essay from Wuxi’s Nanchan temple.
Fast forward a couple of years and I found myself back there. This time with the Yashica Electro 35 GSN loaded with Kodak Ultramax 400. Most of the roll went on the street shots here, but I did get a few from the temple too.
Enough in fact to make a separate post that we can use to explore whether revisiting photography locations is a good thing or not.
Revisiting anywhere for photography
It’s not often that I’ll revisit places I’ve already published photography from and shoot there again.
I’m not talking about towns and cities here though, as they’re big enough to allow each set to be completely different anyway. I’m speaking more about specific locations or attractions.
I’ve been to and shot in Wuxi plenty of times, and would like to again, but does any given temple need documenting twice?
There are upsides and downsides to doing so. It’s all well and good avoiding the latter, as I tend to do, but that will only make you miss out on the former.
So let’s run through some reasons that stop me revisiting places for photography. After that, for balance and so we can end on a positive note, we can get into why I’m holding myself back with that attitude.
Why I’ve tended not to revisit
I think I’ve said this before on this site. I know for sure I have elsewhere. The truth is, I’m not a photographer.
I am in the sense that anyone who makes photographs is, but I’m really a photography blogger more than I am a photographer.
If I wasn’t writing about the photographs on this site, I probably wouldn’t be making them. Photographs alone and what they can do for me just aren’t enough.
In a realm overrun with purists who get annoyed if you’re not doing photography exactly how they think you should be, that might rub a few the wrong way. I can’t do anything about that though, and nor do I care enough to want to.
Back to the point. Visiting different places gives me new places to write about, which just makes creating new blog posts easier.
I don’t need to think of esoteric themes to write about – like whether revisiting a place to shoot it again is good or bad, for example – when I can just talk about somewhere I’ve been. And I can’t really talk about the same place twice.
It’s similar to why I’m shooting as many different films as I can rather than sticking to one. More films, more film reviews.
That’s the main, and possibly only, reason I’ve tended not to revisit places for photography.
Why I should probably revisit more
Now I think about it, there are more reasons to revisit places and shoot again than to not. The first, which comes in two parts, is about the photography. About its quality and quantity.
How likely is it that you’re going to get the very best photographs of any given place on your first visit? I’m going to say not very. So if quality is your aim, going back makes a lot of sense.
I see people, mainly on Twitter, regularly posting photographs of certain parts of a city. You can often see the same landmarks, but the images themselves are all very different. And often very good.
Let’s not forget Rammy Narula made a whole book from shooting in a Bangkok train station either.
So as well as giving yourself the chance to get better photographs, you’re also getting different ones, and of course just more. Quality and quantity.
As these in this post were shot on Kodak Ultramax 400, they’re very different to the other monochrome ones shot on digital. They’re also more about the people, whereas the previous were more about the temple and surrounding views.
Which set is better is impossible to say and actually irrelevant. But they are different enough to merit both being published on here, which leads me to my final point.
While revisiting a place can make it a little harder to come up with something to write for the photographs, it does give me the opportunity to get something down. Without these photographs, I wouldn’t be writing this.
Simply put, publishing photographs from a revisited place is better than having no photographs to publish at all.
Revisiting the future
I hadn’t really thought about the upsides of shooting the same place twice before writing this. The idea only came after I’d written the title, which means it’s been a kind of stream of consciousness.
It’s good to work through things this way though, as it’s made me realise not revisiting places has been holding me back in some ways.
It’s hard to always have a new and different place to shoot but the thought of going back somewhere again – and again and again – can sap the motivation, or even seem pointless.
It’s not pointless though because you’ll come back with a different set of photographs to what you got before. They might be better or they might not, but that’s not important.
What is important is that you’ve got a bunch of new photographs you didn’t have before.
For me, that means having something to write a blog post around. You might use your work for something else. Posting on social or for personal consumption. It doesn’t matter.
Whenever you can, just go somewhere, even if you’ve been there before, and #shootfilmmakesomething 🙂
If you enjoyed that piece on shooting film at Nanchan Temple, why not have a look at some of these other film photo essays too:
And if you think others will find this post worth a read, help them find it by giving it a share 🙂