The Tao of Photography
During the somewhat confusing and at times discouraging journey that we find ourselves travelling as photographers it sometimes helps to take a proverbial step back.
Sometimes we just have to relocate the ball and be sure that our eyes are securely fixed and ask ourselves questions. Why do we do what we do?
Most of us haven’t gave up everything we own to go and follow our so called dreams. But there are those who have… and those photographers who have taken this voluntary internment into most certain poverty in pursuance of our craft… what about them? What gave them the strength to go off and pursue whatever calling? A calling that simply, for one reason or another, would not release them from its grasp.
It’s here that I feel I must stop and reassure you that the following text will not make an attempt to convert you into a “starving artist” mentality nor will it condone or condemn the chances that some people take in order to obtain the fulfilment of their “vision“… whatever that means.
No, I hope instead of trying to push some ideal or methodology upon your mind, you will instead look inward and ask yourself a few important questions. That being said, this article is in a way intended for those individuals who want to look their photography more as a career/life’s work and not so much as a hobby or idle amusement. However, it is most certainly not intended to be wholly exclusive.
It’s a dirty lie that photographers guard their tradecraft with lethal dedication and are unwilling to hear or be heard concerning their work… well some are, but not many. So please, after you have read the following and reflected, please share your thoughts on why you do what you do or at the very least what your intentions are when it comes to making photographs.
Now, onto the introspection.
A cautionary note to the weary reader: I will be sharing my own views and to some extent my own personal ideology on photography as an art. I am known to stray into the deep and murky waters of the allegorical when it comes to such things.
What is Photography To You?
No, really. Think about it for a few minutes before you speak the answer to yourself. I know I surely did. At first my mind was flooded with somewhat grandiose references of what photography means to the art world on how it captures a real moment in time and arrests the fleeting for arguable eternity. It has the rare potential of transcending its maker and literally becoming more than the some of it’s parts. That is indeed all well and good.
I have no argument with those who speak so highly and passionately of anything that they create whether it is art or cupcakes. Still, when I moved past the learned responses that impress the curators and patrons I found my own answer to be somewhat surprising and all together relieving.
The answer is this: my work has nothing to do with you. Nothing at all. It’s all about me. There have been times when I have shared moments with other people while making photos and been happy to do so. But my photographs, even the ones that were done on a strictly contract or commercial basis, are a part of myself.
Why Do You Make Photographs?
Be careful you don’t confuse this question to be asking “FOR what do you do photography?” Dispensing with the grammatical…”what do you do photography FOR?” That is most definitely not the goal of this question. Saying that you create this or that “for something” implies that from the beginning, something was expected in return. Instead, ask yourself “why“? Why did you originally take an interest in making photographs. Was it the sheer curiosity with the medium? Was it the process of creating? Did you have that one photograph that after seeing it your eyes were opened?
When I first began making photos over fifteen years ago I could not have imagined that I would eventually be writing about the art and having my words read by all you outstanding people. My beginnings in photography were unlikely and altogether unexpected. I still remember the exact place and time and circumstance that hurled me onto this photographic road.
Admittedly, however, even I am still trying to pinpoint the exact reason for which I love making photographs. I’ve narrowed it down to the love of nature and of beauty and as well the quiet appreciation of the serenity that can be found even in chaos. I am happily willing to continue my journey into the art until I find my own answer.
Brace yourselves because I am actually about to quote Socrates in an article about photography. That brilliant Greek gave us these words of wisdom: “Know thyself.” Few maxims are as universally applicable and far reaching. Be sure that you know why you are creating anything and what your creation means to you. Always have a firm understanding of yourself as an artist and be sure you stay true to your original vision. Ask yourself the hard questions so that you can stay grounded during your failures as well as your successes.