I'm Not Who I think I Am
Warning, I go a little random in this post.
Have you ever truly thought about your own work and questioned the validity of it?
I don’t make it a point to claim any kind of expertise as a photographer. I don’t pretend to know enough about being one beyond the limited technical details of using a camera, the exposure triangle, basic rules of composition and so forth. Having done photography for several years now, I feel that I’ve not been able to fully articulate the art of the photograph itself anymore than when I first started. Taking photographs (or creating them if that’s the camp you fall into) is one thing, but understanding the nature of it is a completely different skill altogether. I feel like I lack the ability to convey the message of a photo. I can use my camera to take a picture, but I can’t necessarily convey the story behind it. Perhaps it comes down to the saying of “shooting with intent."
To me, “shooting with intent” means to photograph something with the intent of it having some purpose. This means slowing down and observing, composing and then taking the photo. Many times I am able to create some sort of title in my head, imagining the situation and taking a photograph based on what I feel. Other times I am randomly taking a quick photograph and hoping that I got something worth keeping. My intent in this case was to simply take as many random photographs as I could and hope for the best. Like “spray and pray.” The same goes with me taking landscape photos. I don’t necessarily spray and pray with these shots, but I feel I don’t do anything more than some previous photographer has done before me in the same scenario. Am I creating art? Is that my intent? Or am I trying to convey something?
I think that’s where I tend to fall short? I don’t know what it is I’m trying to say a lot of times. I don’t know how to speak about my photography. I wonder if that’s the same dilemma that many of the great photographers felt as well? If you were to ask Ansel Adams about his intent, would he be able to tell you? Or would he just tell you the technical aspects of his photo and maybe explaining that he wants to show contrast in the shadows and the light. Perhaps it’s only us as observers that have been interpreting his photo’s for him. Today we call them brilliant photographs, but to him perhaps they are just a photo of something he see’s as picturesque.
Now I’m not looking to be the next Ansel Adams or Garry Winogrand, but I am looking to be something that’s a little more than what I am now. Going out and shooting with intent has to mean a little more than the words for me. I watch people photograph and post their images on social media where so many images are repeated over and over again, or push their “knowledge” on YouTube but it lacks any feeling to it. In either case, I feel little influence by what they do or how they do it. At times I ask myself, how much they really know beyond the technical aspects of their work and if they truly understand the work that they’re doing. Are they really what they say they are? In asking this, I speculate on my own work. Do I really know what I’m doing?
I don’t know if I would go so far as to saying this is imposter syndrome, but at the same time, I question how and why I am photographing things. I have, for the most part, abandoned social media with exception to Twitter and even then there are times where I wonder why I stay there. Google Plus is dead, Instagram was abandoned, I haven’t had Facebook in years, Vero was tried a while back (before it was popular) and Glass just didn’t feel any different. So if I don’t post to these platforms (OK Twitter once in a while), why take photographs? Like many, I bring it back to the root of why I started in the first place. My photo’s are interesting to me. My intent is for me, not necessarily for others, but to document my life as I go through it. If someone finds my photos decades after I’m dead and hails them as brilliant and revolutionary, would they really know the true reason behind the images?
I think I’ve come out of this post a little more confused about what I’m doing with a camera and yet, strangely a bit more at peace with it as well. My reasons are my own, my purpose is my own and my intent is my own.
“There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are”
- Ernst Haas