They are everywhere and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some are modern, sleek looking digital SLRs, while others harken back 50 years or more with their retro looks. Some are often used as telephones. But they all share one thing in common – they can be used to take photographs. With the gazillion photo taking machine options available, I often hear the term “everyone is a photographer”. And so the question I have been pondering for some time is does simply owning a camera make one a photographer? And then on my drive into work the other morning the answer hit me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a simple yes or not, but rather it came to me in the form of another question – who cares? A photographer is simply a label for someone who takes photographs. In this context, a person surrounded by equipment whose value is the GDP of a small country is as much a photographer as the person who grabs a sneaky cell phone shot of their 3 year old doing something amazing. The real question I should have been pondering is what is it going to take for me to become a better photographer and for my images to stand out from the millions that are floating around in cyber space, in books, galleries, etc.
I see dozens of wonderful photographs each and every day, but every once in a while I see something than warrants significantly more than the few seconds that I spend looking at other images. Such images grab my attention and they inspire me. I snap a quick copy with my eyes and store these images in my memory. Several of these images eventually migrate from my memory to my soul and they become a part of who I am. But what is so special about these images that I allow them to occupy space normally reserved for my conscious or subconscious thinking? The reason is because they speak to me. Sometimes they resemble who I am and how I feel. Other times they resemble who or what I want to become. The one thing that sets these images apart from the rest is that they tell a story. They are far more than a two dimensional representation of what someone saw. Instead, they have multiple dimensions and layers that stand proud of and behind the flat surface they physically sit on. They are images of someone else’s thoughts, feelings and experiences carefully woven into a physical representation of something.
So, back to what I should really be thinking about: in order for me to become a better photographer and for my images to stand out from the crowd, I want to continue along the path I have taken from that proverbial fork in the road that transcends the technical and enters the world of experience and imagination. It is a winding path with many switchbacks and many sections blanketed in darkness. But nevertheless it is a path leading to somewhere and although I often stumble, I want to pick myself up each and every time and continue moving.