In Defense of Photography

I was reluctant to get into photography because it is costly and it felt pretentious. Instead of living your own life to the fullest, you live life through your lens, replaying momentous moments in other people’s lives. I didn’t want to be the travel nuisance fixated on a subject for an absurdly long period of time. I can’t defend such behavior; it is in the nature of the job, like how you can’t start cooking without a fire. Does the good drown out the bad? No, the good can only co-exist with the bad. The best I can do is to acknowledge the bad and preach the good.

Photography is about telling a story. It is partly your own story and partly the story of your subjects. When rich photographers boast about their equipment and travels, you may view their words with disdain, but it doesn’t take away the story. Nature rests, with you or without you, and no amount of money can delay a sunrise. You may be one of the few humans with the resources, time, and endurance to climb great heights in the middle of the night so that you can be there to capture a seldom seen picture. Your journey is your story, and yours alone. Your photo is the story that you share with others. Your efforts are not in vain. What is civilization if not a collection of short stories?

I am not a museum type of guy; they overwhelm me, with boredom. But sometimes I find myself staring at a painting hanging on my friend’s living room, and I am overwhelmed with a sense of elevation. I don’t know what it is about the painting, perhaps it’s the warmth of the woman’s smile in synergy with the atmosphere in the room or the colors matching the leather of the couches. Nobody has the right answer, but everybody has an answer. There are so many elements in a photo that you can use to craft your own aesthetic meaning: color, contour lines, perspective, context. People may look at your photo and figure out the subtle nuances that you’ve introduced, or they may introduce their own interpretations of it that you yourself did not plan for. Or they may have no idea why a painting draws their attention, but subliminally they feel elevated.

As you mindfully apply analytical thinking to the paintings you observe, you will gain a new pair of eyes. Have you ever played those video games where a pair of glasses will give you +100 intelligence? You will never look at things the same way. You will notice details in everyday life that have escaped your attention in the past. You will be adapted to seek out beauty in the most mundane scenes of life. You will gain an insatiable desire to craft stories, to hear stories, and find meaning in everything you do.

Have you ever wanted to travel alone? It’s probably more of a fantasy than a reality. How can traveling alone be fun? It’s scary, uncomfortable, and it feels purposeless. With this new pair of eyes though, everything has purpose. You don’t have to depend on your company to keep you entertained. If they get tired of your photo stops, you can always break off and still be perfectly absorbed in the moment. And if you prefer the company, you can always put your camera away and be absorbed into a conversation. You do have to carry a bag around though, so you better start working those lats. This is much easier said than done, it takes time and practice. That’s okay, you have more time than you think. I just spent two hours typing this out. I’m going to put this out there, two or three people will read it, and they’ll have another story to tell.

Everyone deserves a flattering photo.

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