I’ve been pouring through thousands of photos, tens of thousands actually, searching for just the right ones to tell the complete story of my son who recently graduated from high school. It’s a family tradition, that during the party with family and friends, we unveil a commemorative slide show, complete with intro and tail video segments, all designed to disclose a visual summation of the graduate’s life. In reality, for my kids, it’s all designed to show them how much they’re loved and cherished. It’s a nostalgic pursuit, full of emotion and reflection. It’s a labor of love.
My photo library approaches 45,000 images strong. My wife’s is close to 6,000. But of the images we ultimately selected for the presentation, nearly 90% were drawn from her collection. And that got me to thinking. What is it about photography that draws me in? Why do I continue to walk around carrying a camera these past 36 some odd years after Ed handed me a semi-working Petri rangefinder camera as a young teen? Why do I shoot?
First, a word about my wife. She would never in 6,000 years describe herself as a photographer or photo enthusiast. For her, photography is merely a means by which the daily events of life can be recorded and memorialized. She is a documentarian and thank goodness for that, otherwise so many of our key moments, so many of the images needed for the graduation slide show, would not exist. And here’s the thing – though she doesn’t consider herself a photographer, she’s actually quite good at it. And unlike some of us, she’s content to keep the same camera year after year, only giving in to acquiring another when it gives up the ghost and stops working altogether. Otherwise, she’s content. It’s just a tool. It gets the job done.
As I considered my own library filled with landscapes from various trips and abstract images overflowing with mood and subtlty, I wondered: why are the great moments of my life not in there? Instead, I see trees and oceans, mountains and vistas, street scenes, still lifes, athletes in motion, wildlife, beaches… and everything I’ve ever captured on film and now a digital sensor. But what’s the point? Why am I doing this? And that’s what prompted the ruminating and honestly stepping back… and appraising.
Here’s what I came up with. For me. The applicability of this may be limited and so I’ll close this post with an invitation to 2 Guys Photo readers to ask themselves the very same question… and to share their thoughts with us if willing.
I shoot for two reasons, primarily. I could add a third, which is to say that I shoot as a creative outlet. As a way to unlease the inner artist and all that blah, blah, blah. This reason is so universal, however, that I think it best to leave off the list. I’m focusing on the specific, the personal, the unique reasons why I shoot.
Here they are:
First, to capture and to savor the beauty that surrounds me. I’m frequently halted by the abundance of the beauty in all of creation, some of it apparant and some of it less so. When I think about photographing this beauty, then I can see it more clearly. Conventional wisdom may suggest that those who see the beautiful will attempt to net it and pin it down on a recording medium. For me, it’s the very act of walking through life with such a medium that enables my seeing it in the first place.
Second, on my own personal trek of self-discovery and meaning-making, I shoot so that I can locate outside of me what I’m looking for within. If the current theme within is anger or doubt, joy or peace, then that’s what I see… and that’s what I shoot. In this sense, my photographs are more mirror than window.
But that’s just me. How about you?
Why do you shoot?