This blog is part of a series entitled “Who Needs Photographers Anymore?” where I discuss my opinion on the state of photography—specifically documentary photography. If you haven’t read Part 1 & Part 2, please consider doing so before going any further.
“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.” —Diane Arbus
“Do you carry that with you everywhere?”
“Do you go to bed with that thing around your neck?”
“Do you ever leave the house without that camera??”
I’m used to these sorts of questions.
In a time when everyone has a camera in their pocket—I find them extremely ironic. I want to reply by saying, “Yes, just like the camera phone you carry with you everywhere. Do you go to bed with that?”
I’d bet on it.
Despite the satirical nature of these comments, I wear them like a badge of honor. In fact, I believe they give credence to the idea that—it’s not about the camera you’re using, it’s about the way you view the world.
[Everyone has a camera, everyone is a photographer….] has become the phrase angrily uttered by a new generation of photographers hungry for projects & work. All the while, life is happening right in front of their faces.
It’s true that the landscape of photography has changed with the advent of better & smarter “smart” phones. But what makes a great photograph remains the same.
Having a camera at all times is not extraordinary. What separates us as photographers from the rest of humanity—is our attention—our ability to see.
I’m ALWAYS looking—I’m always present. I view the world quite literally through the lens of a camera—whether I have one or not. It doesn’t matter if I’m using an iPhone or a 5D MKii—what matters is my perspective & vision.
Sure everyone has a camera—but not everyone has vision.
“Do you go to bed with that thing?”
Developing Your Vision
Great photographs don’t need to happen in a war zone, a far off exotic land, or during a world shaking historical event. Great photographs can be taken in your back yard, at your kids’ sporting event, on the floor of your kitchen, or in your bathroom mirror.
Great photographs are everywhere—you just have to develop the vision to see them.
By vision I don’t mean eyesight—I’m speaking of vision that comes from your heart. Vision that is a willingness to open yourself up to the possibility of something magical happening at any moment. Vision drives you to be awake and aware of your surroundings—to see what no one else is willing to see.
“It is important to see what is invisible to others. Perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness.” —Robert Frank
In my experience, vision is something that’s developed over time. It’s something that we must nourish and grow day by day.
As a documentary photographer—what’s the best way to develop your vision?
Photograph those closest to you.
This should be at the top of your list. How are you going to tell the stories of strangers if you can’t tell the stories of the people you love?
Develop your photographic vision by documenting the lives of your family & friends. No one is going to see them the way that you do.
Who Needs Photographers Anymore? Part 3: Our Friends & Families Need Photographers
“I am writing this book because we’re all going to die.” — Jack Kerouac
I’ve taken it upon myself to be the official documentary photographer of——well, everyone around me. But most importantly my family and friends.
“Photograph what you love” is the cliche most photographers have heard and it reigns true. One of my favorite things to photograph is my wife while she’s cooking, hanging out with our dogs, sleeping, or deep in thought.
This habit has become a great source of joy for me and it’s a way to practice the art of storytelling on a daily basis. These are seemingly mundane moments—but by developing my vision, I can turn our daily routine into a body of work.
“If you wait, people will forget your camera, and the soul will drift up into view.” — Steve McCurry
Some of my favorite images are photos that I’ve made of friends & family. They may not mean much to an outsider—but they’re priceless to me.
I’ve never gone on a trip or to a family gathering and said to myself—”I wish I wouldn’t have taken so many photos”, it’s always the opposite.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—”The job outlook for photographers is 8 percent decline through 2026.”
We’re all drawn to photography for a myriad of reasons—hopefully making money isn’t one of them.
I’m so sick of feeling like my value as an artist should come from whether or not I’m booking shoots or somehow making a career from taking photographs. Forget about money and accolades—what’s more rewarding than telling your own story and the story of your family & friends through photographs?
Maybe photography isn’t the most promising career path, but I believe it’s still worth pursuing.
If you consider yourself a photographer—no one is going to capture your closest loved ones the way that you will.
You have the ultimate access.
“You yourself are unique–you have ways of seeing your world that are unlike those of anyone else–so find ways to more faithfully express that, and your style will emerge.” —David duChemin
Our friends & families need photographers. It’s our responsibility to honor them by documenting their lives & telling the stories of the people we love.
Photograph your friends & family—develop your vision.
Have faith that the world is beautiful—and there is something magical happening right now.
This blog series will end with Part 4: The World Needs Photographers
Thank you for reading!