Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The World Through the Eyes And Lens of a Photographer

This is a piece I have been thinking about for a very long time. The initial premise is really quite simple: Once you become a serious photographer, your perspective about almost everything in the world around you is altered. I would go so far as to suggest the world would be a better place if more people actually took meaningful pictures regularly. And yes, I am aware that, with the advent of the smart phone camera, there are more pictures being taken than ever before in human history. That said, selfies are the antithesis of the kind of photography about which I am speaking. 

The type of photography for which I am advocating requires that the person who is taking the picture is looking to capture something specifically in their environment.  It can be as simple as trying to capture beauty in nature. It can be as complex as trying to isolate and capture an emotion. It can be the attempt to chronicle history for those who understand that time moves inexorably forward and that memories can be sharpened with photographs. Loved ones will not always be with us and to capture them in the present might just provide comfort in the distant future.

Photographers are historians. What is captured is at first new and then becomes increasingly older. Everything that reflected light onto the sensor or film in the camera reveals the norms of the day. Clothing, furniture, hairstyles, vehicles and anything else seen with the human eye are pretty much guaranteed to change, but the  captured images will remain  accurate depictions of  moments in time. Photographs become a metric with which change is measured.

It goes even deeper than point and shoot. A good photographer looks into his or her camera and unlike the human eye there is the ability to frame what will go onto the photograph. I cannot begin to tell you just how many of the photographs that I have taken over the years are what I call an extraction.  By that I mean, if you were to open the field of vision too much in any direction there will be something that completely ruins the intention of the photographer.  It might be a pile of junk, a wrecked car, a mountain of manure or a herd of curious yet uncomely cows.  You see, it is framing in such a way as to extract a particular view.  Much of the time it is for pure aesthetics.  You want to find only the beauty.  Sometimes you want the wrecked car with a baby goat proudly dancing on the hood.  You  are in charge of the message.

It is not uncommon for people who otherwise are shy and unable to verbally express themselves are extremely good at photography.  Words are one way to send a message, but you will notice that those who practice the nearsighted walk through an art museum generally leave filled to the psychological brim with an enriched understanding of the world.  The painter, sculptor and photographer are nowhere to be found, but every visitor leaves with the artists’ creative messages bouncing around in their brains...even if it is pure disgust.

For me, it is a simple message.  Of all the things that I encounter, this is what I saw.  These are the things that jumped out at me.  These are the animals that I wouldn't see if I sped by at sixty-five miles per hour. These are the buildings that have stood for so very long and make me want to know who built and used them.  There are as many questions as there are statements.  But all of them are saturated with my desire to learn and share, to shoot and capture.  

We would all be better off if we approached life like a photographer approaches his craft.  There is something worthwhile in every landscape but sometimes it’s necessary to overlook the flaws for the beauty.  There is no perfect sunset, no perfect mountain lake.  The photographer must extract that beauty.  In these times of polarization wouldn’t we all be better off to frame each picture of life for the value it presents rather than focusing on the flaws?