An occasional series, each contemplating one reason why I make photographs.
Why I Photograph #1
To narrow the world down to just what’s between the four straight edges of the viewfinder, something my mind can get a grasp of for just that moment, when more often than not it all feels too vast, complex and chaotic to comprehend.
Why do you photograph?
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16 thoughts on “Why I Photograph #1”
Our extended family has family photographs from every decade dating from approximately 1900. They include six generations. Our grandchildren take out the storage box and look through the prints almost every time they visit. I am doing my best to preserve and extend the collection for future generations.
Doug, you’ve spoken about this before, it’s an amazing legacy. Do you know who it began with, the first photographer in your family?
The earliest prints are studio portraits from Sweden (my family) and Jamaica (my wife’s). The earliest actually taken by a family member were by one of my wife’s relatives well before 1915, based on the apparent age of a cousin in the pictures who died that year. My mother received a Kodak Brownie for her birthday in 1920. Theses are the oldest negatives in the collection. My father’s earliest negatives are from about 10 years later. My first are from 1952. Then the photographer gene skipped a generation, but our 9 year old grandson is an enthusiastic Instax photographer.
That is an amazing collection, and so great that you’re continuing it – as is your grandson!
Hi Dan. Somewhat related to Doug’s comment above, for me a lot of my photography is to remember places or events. I don’t often use my cameras to make “Art” or portraits anymore but I tend to use them like a notebook. In fact today I spent a wonderful day photographing one of my favorite events, the largest flea market in the USA, which is held about 10 miles from our house. It was a bright hot day and I came home with a few pictures I’m really pleased with. In fact this was my most successful visit in years and except for a few sentimental favorites and collectibles I’ve decided to sell every other camera I have and use only the Fuji X-pro. I’m not happy with the lens it came with (Too wide) but I just can’t imagine a better camera. It’s just a joy to shoot and seems incapable of taking a bad picture (If only I could say the same) A little on the large side but I can live with it. Now to save up for a more suitable lens….
Jon, thanks for your input.
Using a camera as a notebook is a great approach, something I do too, mostly for family shots, just to quickly capture a moment that we might otherwise forget.
Does that flea market include camera gear too? If so were you tempted by anything?
The Fuji sounds like a fantastic match for you. Do you have a new lens in mind?
I take photographs (and not as often as I would like) to find that one perfect picture. I love to seek perfection; and when I think I’m as close as possible to that, then I look for another subject.
Ah, so does this mean you’ll take multiple pictures of, say, one specific flower, until you have a (near) perfect image? Or multiple pictures of, say, many different tulips, until you have the perfect tulip photograph, then you move on to another subject?
The former. I’ll find the perfect tulip with what I hope is a good and interesting light and then take multiple
Sorry, pressed send by a mistake … then take multiple pictures. With some plants, I like it particularly if there are early morning spider’s webs, rain drops and how they sit on a leaf or petal (particularly Alchemilla mollis for example), a buzzing insect etc etc and how the light works with all of that. Goodness, I know nothing about photography, but I do love a good picture. Love taking pictures of children too. My favourite which I wish I was able to share, was of my goddaughter close up, in a tree surrounded by foliage but her face was lit by the evening sun through a gap in the leaves. She didn’t know I was taking it and looked strangely serene for such a young child. Took it years ago, and still love it.
Probably not the answer you were hoping for: I don’t really know. I guess it’s an urge to be creative (I can’t play the piano, paint, draw, cook, etc. – so it’s photography), I don’t really care about the technical aspect. Taking pictures is compulsive, something I *have* to do – but in all honesty, that means it can be a burden as well.
What happens if you don’t take photos?
I know for me I get a bit twitchy if I haven’t used a camera for a week, and usually just start wandering the garden looking for photographs… So yeh I relate to that compulsion to make photos.
Usually it happens due to the lack of suitable subjects. It causes unrest, but I get better at resisting the impulse to take photos for the sake of taking photos. That was different when I was still active on sharing platforms, where it feels like you’re constantly “in competition” with others who can post brilliant work every day.
I think we can also get caught in that trap because we (or at least I) used to think that because people are posting every day, they are making these photographs every day.
Whereas, they might go out once a week or once a fortnight, take 500 shots, and have enough once they’ve edited down, they have enough for a new image a day.
The posting frequency can give an unrealistic impression of a) how often they photograph and b) the “success” or hit rate of their work.
Honestly, I think I’m still trying to figure out why I photograph. I should probably spend far more time thinking about this. Every opportunity that I take my camera along with me and prove unsuccessful somehow really “seeing” something, anything at all that may trigger that reflex inside to create an image that is good enough to really tell a story, I come away disappointed even devastated at the failure. Just talking about this makes me ache and want to go for a walk around the block and prove to myself there’s something deeper inside me. That sounds like a bunch of bunk, probably.
Not “bunk” at all, I understand what you mean. I would suggest that most of us most of the time are disappointed with our photographs. I don’t think this is a reflection that we have no depth, at all. Just the right variables haven’t aligned at the right time. Personally it’s not an option really to not photograph, I enjoy it too much, even when the results aren’t as good as I’d hoped. I guess I don’t measure the enjoyment purely by the final result.