February 5, 2017
I‘m always amused when someone asks me what kind of camera I use. The question implies that a good photograph must be the result of using a fancy, expensive camera.
An illogical way to begin a conversation with an artist would be to say, “That’s a beautiful work of art. You must use a very expensive brush.”
I’m amused because I would never say to a writer, “You have such a way with words. What kind of pen do you use?”
I daily use an expensive fountain pen, but using that pen does not inherently make me a good writer. Neither does shooting with an expensive camera make me a better photographer. A pen, a computer and a camera are all hardware. As important as they are, they will always be a means to an end.
The talented, award-winning photographer Roy Inman tells the story about the father of the boy he was photographing. “Wow! Great shot,” exclaimed the father. “That must be a REALLY good camera!” “Yes, yes it is,” thought Roy. “Just like the REALLY good piano I have at home. But I can’t play it.”
“Photography has nothing to do with cameras,” says photographer Lucas Gentry. “Photography is all about the eye. Many people make the mistake of thinking that if only they had a fancy camera, then they would be a better photographer. Or they’ll think that if only they could take a trip to a more beautiful area, then they could take better pictures. I’m here to tell you that those sentiments are simply not true.”
I love cameras. Yet I will always remember that a camera is just a tool to help me create pictures that are interesting, creative and artistic. I am not minimizing the importance of mastering the mechanics of a camera. After all, any tool should be used correctly. But I cherish the idea expressed by famed photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson who said, “It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart and head.”
January 7, 2016
After five years of blogging, I took an extended break from posting on this site. It was not a deliberate decision. It just happened.
During this time I still blogged, but I shifted from a verbal to a visual format, migrating from this WordPress platform to Instagram.
Upon reflection, I’ve identified reasons why I found myself sharing my pictures rather than my words. Those reasons include:
- Better engagement. When I began blogging, I thought this would be a good way to connect and converse with others. Perhaps it was my writing style, but I found myself posting monologues rather than engaging in conversations. In retrospect, I realize that most people are like me – they are more naturally drawn to colorful pictures than to columns of gray type.
- Too snarky. I realized my blog posts were starting to have an edge of cynicism and sarcasm. At work, I was enduring wave after wave of reorganizations that left most of us confused and disoriented. Many of my unpublished posts were written during this time of chaos. Those unshared writings were my attempt to make sense of what was happening. While they were cathartic, they were best left confined to the pages of my private journal rather than being shared publicly in a blog.
- Creative expression. The seemingly-endless corporate restructuring slowly sapped much of my creative energy. In this world, we each have a unique voice that gives us something to share with others. On a personal level, I felt compelled to expand my options for doing that. Photography provided a creative outlet that gave me renewed energy and purpose. Instagram provided a much-needed platform for my creative expression.
- Positive optimism. As my Instagram adventure progressed, I found myself focusing on the beauty in the world surrounding me. I discovered that within the ordinary I could always find something extraordinary. I’ve long believed that whatever one focuses on will expand. I chose to focus on the beauty surrounding me, and the more I looked for it, the more of it I found.
- Connecting, not dividing. Photography transcends the barriers of language, geography, politics, religion and other divisive elements in our world. Words are too easily used as weapons to divide and destroy. For me, sharing photos provided a way to unite and to build bridges where fences had once been erected.
Writing and photography are not mutually exclusive. I will keep writing, and I also will keep snapping pictures. In the weeks and months ahead, I anticipate finding the appropriate balance between both.
The renowned photographer Henri Cartier-Besson once said, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” If a picture is worth a thousand words, then, by my math, I believe that my first 10 million words will be my worst. I’ll keep plodding along, though.