I have been thinking a lot about photography, about being a photographer, and my past obsession with taking photos.
From 2015 up to recently, I was a compulsive photographer. I had to take my camera everywhere and photograph pretty much everything, including my food, shadows, patterns, textures, you name it. Since my husband died back in September, I have used my camera only a few times. I no longer feel the need to shoot for the sake of doing it. I don’t know what happened, but my attitude towards photography has changed significantly.
Photography for the sake of photography
It is common to see photographers on You-Tube trying to inspire other photographers to shoot, claiming that one can take a photograph anywhere, and that if you cannot come up with an idea, it’s completely your fault: there’s no reason to be uninspired by common situations, messy rooms, hospital hallways. Photography enthusiasts make videos of themselves taking photos in mundane settings, to prove that they can find compelling compositions using shadows, fences, walls, lamps, or some random pedestrian strolling on an empty street.
I too have set myself out to prove that I can find opportunities for compositions everywhere and I have succeeded some times. The question I have asked myself lately, however, is: why do we have to find photography opportunities everywhere? Further, are random photographs to prove a point going to make any difference whatsoever my life, or in the lives of other people?
I have several external drives full of random photos that mean absolutely nothing to me, or to anyone else. I have posted many of them on Facebook, Instagram. I have expected likes and comments on them, and when I didn’t get that, I explained it away by saying that people don’t really appreciate my photography. The reality is, however, that people don’t care because those photos mean nothing to them. Or if they do click “like” or make a comment, they quickly move on to another geometrical pattern, interesting texture, or spooky shadow, all of which mean nothing to them.
The featured photograph is a snapshot of the photos I took during an outing to an old farm. I was bored to my bones and then I blamed myself for not being inspired by the setting and started shooting away. The result is a collection of photos that mean nothing to anyone.
I don’t believe that I will go out anymore just to “shoot” or prove that I can transform boring settings into clever frames. I am not judging those who do it, and if it makes them happy, I wish them to go ahead and shoot away. But it is not for me anymore.
Photography with a purpose
It was a revealing experience to me when I found, deep into my husband’s archives, the best portraits of him. They were taken by a close friend of his, in their early years. It daunted on me that I never took good photos of my husband, although I had 20 years of opportunities. I know I am not drawn to photographing people… but… I could have tried… it is not that difficult.
After my experience above, I remembered some blog posts by Erik Kim about photographing people who are dear to us. At the time I read his post, it didn’t speak to my heart. Now it does… No one is guaranteed of tomorrow, go make those awesome memories now.
I did enjoy photographing some of my husband’s buddies during the celebration of his life on October 23. Although the conditions were challenging, I hope the musicians appreciate the photos I took of them, and I will be able to treasure the memory when I browse my archives.
From now on, before I shoot
I will ask some questions: does this need, or deserve, to be photographed? What am I trying to say, or show, by taking this picture? Is someone else going to treasure it? Am I going to treasure it?
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