Perhaps because I worked in book publishing for several years before becoming a photographer, I have a tendency to think about what will be a 'useful picture' when I go somewhere. So if I go to Budapest or Lisbon or wherever, I try to get a good shot of the local trams, of souvenirs, of the main buildings. The kind of thing that might get used in a guidebook or on a travel website. And of course it should be sharp and bright and carefully composed.
This has meant that sometimes I have not taken shots of things which are abstract or trivial or too quirky. But lately I have tried to relax a bit more and reconsider what might be useful -- once you put pictures with stock libraries I think its very hard to predict what might get used.
Recently a poetry publisher asked me to send a selection of images for them to use on the cover of an anthology. As is the way in publishing, they need a front cover long before the choice of poems has been finalised, so there is no specific subject matter for them to brief me on. I just had to think about vaguely poetic, abstract images and hope for the best.
The top image here was taken from the front seat of a London bus stuck in traffic. I drew the heart myself to pick up on the red lights, which are the tail-lights of the vehicles in front. Next is an image taken from a train in Finland. Because its blurred it isn't a 'good' photo in the ordinary sense but the trunks of the silver birches and their yellow autumnal leaves, plus a glimpse of blue sky, give it some kind of atmosphere which a sharp image wouldn't have.
The last image, below, is actually sharp -- it just doesn't look it! This is taken at Tate Modern in London, where there is a Members' Room with a frosted glass wall allowing light through to the stairwell. A woman with her hair in a bun, sits on a bar stool, waiting for someone else to arrive perhaps... Lets hope that's sufficiently mysterious and poetic.
Anna Watson: photographer, parent, juggler