A Small Voice: Conversations With Photographers

100 - Ben Smith

Episode Summary

To mark the 100th episdode, it's... me! On the early days, first breaks, regrets, voice memos, the podcast and my long-term project: 'Indicative Only'.

Episode Notes

As a teenager I wanted to be a professional journalist and an amateur photographer. This was a perfectly good and eminently attainable goal for a bright, lower-middle class fifteen year old boy to have. So, for reasons that are too complicated to explore here, I promptly set about dismantling any prospect of achieving it in a miasma of Marlboro reds and vast quantities of Pakistani Black. After hundreds of identical misspent nights in the White Hart, a relentless pursuit of any and all self-destructive displacement activites, and a brief detour into the cul-de-sac of a media production degree, the ‘dream’ was eventually realised when I sat down in front of a portable typewriter (old sckool, y’all) and became a freelance journalist, contributing features on a diverse range of subjects to a wide array of publications from specialist magazines to national broadsheets.

This arrangement was soon to change, however, when a long-standing love of photography was re-ignited by a short succession of annual pilgrimages to the World Press Photo exhibition at the Barbican in London. Instinctively feeling - or perhaps hoping - that I may have caught a glimpse into my future, I enrolled on a post-graduate diploma in photojournalism at the London College of Printing, after which I managed to combine both disciplines before ultimately electing to focus on the photography. Thus the adolescent ambition was fulfilled, but arse about backwards.

Then a bunch of other stuff - aka ‘life’ - happened; I worked consistently as a freelance editorial photographer (though never really as much as I should have); had an all too brief foray into the big bucks of commercial and lifestyle commissions; made sure I torpedoed every opportunity to progress that came my way lest I might have to face the terrifying prospect of success; and more or less sleep-walked zombie-like through what should have been the best years of my life. Thankfully the Marlboro reds and Pakistani Black, and indeed the endless, Groundhog Day nights in the pub, had long since lost any allure they may have once had. As, to be brutally frank, had photography and just about everything else.

Anyway, then a bunch more stuff happened, most of which (with the notable exception of my inexplicably becoming a father) was less than fascinating. In 2015 I decided to start a photography podcast. I’ve written about the reasons for this in my blog but the truth is it was what the Americans might call a ‘hail Mary pass’. A last ditch attempt at dragging myself out of the mire of self-flagellation, regret, disappointment and depression in which I found myself. I’ve come to realise that though I seem to lack the confidence and self-belief to really succeed and thrive, I can at least always muster the necessary resources to save myself from oblivion. Such was the case in September 2015 when I started this podcast. As Marc Maron once put it when asked whether he could have imagined when he started his podcast eventually interviewing the President. “I didn’t imagine anything. It was an alternative to suicide!”

Thanks for listening. I really mean that. Here’s to the next 100 episodes. I’ll do them as well as I can, keeping in mind my aforementioned podcasting hero’s beautiful words of advice: try to act from your heart, no matter how broken it is.

In episode 100, I discuss, among other things:

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“Never believe you’ve played your last hand... Never believe you've played your last hand. There’s always more cards coming.”