This will be my forth summer in
Everyone is a photographer. Whether we photograph with a $5,000 SLR or a simple camera phone, we are all still searching for meaning in our images. I imagine many of you started off as I did, with a hand-me-down camera from my parents when I was a small child. I photographed everything: Flowers, friends, and of course the family pet. The subjects themselves had meaning for me, but the meaning never translated through the images.
Twenty years later something has definitely changed. Today, I have top of the line equipment, years spent acquiring technical skills, and a career that enables me to travel to amazing places and photograph beautiful people, but none of those things help give my images meaning. What has really made the difference is the way I think about creating images. When I see a potential photographic subject that interests me I don’t immediately photograph it like I would have 20 years ago. I stop and ask myself what about the subject makes it interesting. And the answer I usually give myself has to do with some emotional response I have. I concentrate on that emotion and make it the subject of my image.
For instance, last year I visited the Denver Zoo. My original desire was to make some pretty images of animals, and that is definitely how I started out. It changed when I came to the primate exhibit and saw the gorilla shown in the accompanying image. We stared into each other’s eyes for several minutes, during which time I completely forgot about my camera. I was so moved by the experience, but before I could think about photographing the gorilla, I had to think about what it was that moved me. It wasn’t that it was trapped in a cage. In fact I was quite certain that if it had wanted to, it could have broken right through the thin chain link fence. That is when it hit me. The gorilla wasn’t really imprisoned by the fence at all. He was really trapped in his own mind. It was a reluctant acceptance of the situation that held him behind the chain link. I became certain that if the fence was removed, he would have stayed right where he was. And that was when I was able to create the image of him.
I hope that next time you are out photographing you take this to heart, and think carefully about the meaning behind the image. Concentrate on the emotion that the subject evokes and not the subject itself, and you will see a huge difference in your photographs.