Updated: Mar 29, 2020
Many people ask me what it’s like being a photographer in a world where iPhones are ubiquitous and “everyone is a photographer”. I’d like to preface my response by saying that I’m entirely supportive of the ways that camera phones have encouraged people to take beautiful pictures and collect these high quality moments that life presents us with. There is no denying that iPhones have made documenting the little things in life so much easier, and that’s not something to be taken for granted.
That being said, everyone with a good camera is not a photographer.
I can’t define what it means to be a photographer for every professional photographer out there because each artist has a different method, but I’d like to define photography in my own terms so that people can understand myself and my approach to my work a little bit more.
For me, photography is a constant challenge to see the world better. By this, I don’t mean seeing only the beautiful things, but rather being relentlessly curious, remaining educated, asking better questions each day, and opening myself up to a spectrum of thoughts and emotions. This is a challenge I believe all artists can relate to uniquely, but I hope I can communicate the extent to which I take it upon myself to achieve this.
A huge part of seeing the world better is seeing people better, and relating to people on a deeper level. Whenever I do portrait shoots I consider it part of my work as an artist to make the photoshoot an edifying experience for the model. I strive to be the person that can invite a person out of their comfort zone and help them explore the nuances of their personality and the beauty of their physicality. This isn’t something I expect to come easy for people, because as someone who personally hates getting my picture taken, I know how hard it is to turn on that confidence, especially when that energy isn’t cultivated and reciprocated by the photographer. Because of this, I have a very cathartic approach to the photoshoot process and I have high expectations for myself to connect with my model and do justice to their vulnerability. Those who know me know that I make a lifestyle out of this mentality because I’m constantly looking for ways to engage with people and learn from the variety of creative perspectives that I encounter.
As human beings we crave a deeper understanding of our identity and our purpose. We desire meaning, social well-being, and authentic relationships as a result of who we are and the person that we have worked hard to become. Identity is delicate and an extraordinary thing to capture because it changes every single day, due to the choices we make. Learning about identity is subsequently a very valuable experience for everyone.
Exploring the concept of identity through photography means a few things from a photographer's perspective. Firstly, it requires capturing how people envision themselves. This means being intuitive not just to the features that they favor about themselves, but to the greater picture of how they imagine themselves to be at their most confident, while still being true to their identity. Secondly, it requires capturing how others see them. This is important because often times other people see our beauty and potential when we are oblivious to it, and we need this outside perspective to help us remain true to ourselves. Lastly, it requires capturing the moments where the model turns towards engagement with their identity. This is when the photographer’s technical abilities come into play because a good photographer captures the moments where someone is most engaged and aligned with their identity, and those moments often come and go quickly.
I’m not going to go into depth about the complexities of photography composition, manual mode, or the extensive post-production process, but I do want to emphasize that it’s truly a craft to organize a model into a landscape with light and lines that accentuate the mood and spirit of the identity that is being captured. Photography as an art form goes far beyond the camera work. It’s very possible and common to take a wonderful shot on accident, and that can be attributed to the fact that the world is full of beautiful mistakes. However, a photographer has beautiful intentions and the anticipation to articulate the perfect moment, in series with other complementary moments, and that’s what distinguishes a photographer, as I define it, from someone with a good camera.