A Reminder To Every Photographer: #WhyIStarted

There are times as a photographer when you are filled with extreme self-doubt. There are other times when you feel uninspired & lacking in enthusiasm. Often we remedy this condition by forcing upon ourselves a barrage of new visual inspiration, a gear buying frenzy, life hacks and on the extreme even resorting to some sort of addiction.

Instead, going back to the core of my craft to remember why I even started the whole thing helped me focus on what is most important. It helped me let go of all the mental clutter. Therefore the #WhyIStarted Challenge. Here are my reasons:

1. Photography is an art form.

Henri-Cartier Bresson is known to have said: “Your first 10,000 picture are your worst”. Although it was likely said with a different spirit let us entertain the literal for a minute. Keep in mind he was from an era where you had 24 pictures in a roll. Let us assume that he meant pictures that you would select and not the random attempts around it. If you dedicate two hours to photography every day you will on an average return with maybe three-four pictures you won’t mind signing your name under. That is around six and a half years to hit the 10K mark and adjusted for the current state of technology we can fairly double that number.

All that time, money and effort you are going to spend on photography, could it be better spent elsewhere? Like getting physically fit or consciously improving your relationships, bringing up your child, spending more time with friends while earning through a desk job?

To me excellence matters. Photography fulfils this urge because as an art form you never really reach excellence. It works as a constant propulsion to achieve. Every project gets my juices flowing, in search for that perfect picture. While it might sound maniacal, we are what we are.

My first self portrait. I was working towards playing basketball professionally. I was really proud of this one back then in 2010, well, still am proud of the then me.

2. No excuses to create.

One of the main reasons I moved from being a filmmaker to being a photographer is that as a filmmaker I would have a million excuses not to make films. I am not a good enough script-writer, I don’t have the budget, I need more equipment, I need a team etc.. Photography, on the other hand, leaves you with no excuses. I can right now pick up my camera and create an image right this second. To create is to be.

3. Cost of equipment

If I have a smartphone, I am pretty much set. I can save up and upgrade to a dedicated camera, that some of the best photographers use! A camera you buy today is most likely going to be more advanced than that of the equipment used for the 100 most iconic photographs ever shot. Just think about that for a moment. I am loving the Sony A7Riii I invested in last year & the Sony lenses are gold!

4. Instant art

In this day and age, photography, especially digital photography is the fastest art form. Think about painting, sculpting, dance and filmmaking. How many of these take a click to create art? A frozen moment of reality in an instant. Twenty of these spectacular moments and I can hold an exhibition!

5. Photography: The art of seeing

The mastery of light or painting with light might sound intriguing but I believe photography is mostly the art of seeing and knowing how your camera sees. Once you understand the basics of photography and camera lenses, you can actually start practising seeing even without your camera. Which essentially means the amount of time I can spend on getting better at seeing is potentially all the hours I am awake. Just that is a liberating idea!

6. Travelling more

Since I began photography, I find myself going out a lot more, and the urge to travel has become stronger than ever. After a while, your eyes are yearning new environments and fresh visual experiences. I interact more with the environment I am in because I consciously look at it. Photography can become a vehicle through which you can experience the joys of travel. Most of all..and maybe the very reason we travel, to become aware of more than just ourselves. Photography remains the best excuse to travel for me.

7. Introvert’s dream

If you are an introvert like me, photography can become a great way to balance out your personality. Having to interact with people, going out more often can really act as a release to the introvert soul. An introvert thinks a hundred times before approaching someone, but with a camera in your hand, you suddenly have a “valid” reason to approach someone and sometimes that is all the nudge an introvert needs to form meaningful relationships.

8. Making new friends

When you start photography you are automatically part of the community of other photographers, it is like you acquire a new tribe. A few photo-walks and collaborations later you are suddenly sharing a beer with someone you met because you own the same camera model. Hashtag PhotoFam!

9. Constant learning

I find yourself digging deep into forums searching for why the A7R3 is having banding issues in spite of disabling the e-shutter front curtain at 2 in the night. The person answering my question is a 68-year-old. Most of his friends have retired.

Like any art form, I will be learning new things throughout my life. Sometimes from people much younger than me, sometimes from a beginner and sometimes from someone who is already dead. Isn’t that what really keeps us young? Constant learning.

9. Memoir of Life

There is something special about going through pictures from the past. Not just because they are visually interesting but because they hold within them emotions of that passed moment and the story of how far you have come. Now imagine 10 or twenty or 60 years of such memories. It is a visual lifetime of experiences that can be passed on. Why passed on? Because the generation after you can better understand themselves, by knowing the origins of the condition of the world they live in, by knowing why we passed them a broken planet to start with, and just maybe they will know not to be as greedy as we were. To know that taking a photograph is in a way documenting history is fascinating.

10. A Spiritual Journey

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are — Carl Jung

Almost everything we do in life seems to be getting closer to the things that reflect who we truly are and discarding that which we are not. I think every picture I take has a part of me in it. The day I begin to see all my pictures telling the same story, is probably when I would be actually telling my own, and that might just be when I have found myself.

Those were my ten reasons. You might have more or less, doesn’t matter. Let me know in the comments. If you do decide to do this exercise, tag me on Instagram @prem_hessenkamp I am waiting to read what you have to share.