This post may seem like it’s nothing more than an insanely long tangent, and I understand the confusion. Truth is, what follows is core to the question of why I capture photons onto a sensor and create art.
For twenty-some years, I’ve been a corporate communicator. As an executive speechwriter and ghostwriter, I’ve allowed someone else’s thought structures and ways of speaking take up extended residence in my mind. I could pull out their persona and put it into a memo, embed it on a slide or translate it into a script. And as an editor, I’ve shaped my writing and that of my staff to conform to a ubiquitous corporate voice and style. I’ve sat side by side with leaders and subject matter experts to find the optimal way to communicate their message and then articulate it to perfection, or at least as close as we could get. Simply put, it is a career of writing for others.
In contrast, photography provides three releases from these constraints. (See? Even now, in a freeform post, I’m operating within a learned framework.)
(1) No words! … unless I include them in the shot’s composition. I find satisfaction in telling a story, evoking an emotion, etc., without fretting over the proper application of AP style or sentence structure. I can poetically find my own voice without using it.
(2) My vision. For me, photography is seldom about documenting what I see and simply sharing it. Rather, I seek a scene and impose my perspective of it by painting with and manipulating light. Hand three photographers (but not “influencers,” mind you) the same camera and the same scene, and you’ll receive three different visions. I love this freedom of discovery provided by art.
(3) Releasing the agenda. A long time ago I gave up trying to defend every last word I wrote, and I think of my photography in the same way. Each image is the best I could achieve in that moment and within the constraints of the development cycle. I am constantly amazed by how people react to art, and I never know what will resonate or flop. When I share an image, I release my agenda and open my perspective to interpretation. That’s when the real conversation starts, and when an image goes from photograph to art.