Every once in a while I’m asked, “Why do you love photography?” or “Why do you take so many pictures?” I’ve thought about this; a lot. Whether driving down the road, walking through the woods, setting up a shot, or editing a photo; the question has caused me to pause and contemplate what the real answer is. What is this mysterious drive or goal?
Scott Bourne is a world class photographer, a teacher of skills and has been a mentor to many. Although I’ve never met him, I’ve admired and respected his work. He recently published an article in Photofocus entitled “On the Day of My Death”. The writing included the above Kodak Gallery Commercial video and is available for viewing at the link http://wp.me/pu7xa-5Xf . Scott’s comments and the inspiring video really compelled me to consider and analyze that lingering question regarding my passion for photography and helped me to finally come to an answer. What I have discovered is my answer. Yours may be different. For what it is that you love to do (photography, writing, quilting, teaching, gardening, nurturing, carpentry, [you get the picture]) there will be a similar cause or drive. But before I go on to reveal how I answered that question, please watch the Kodak video. Yes, it’s about 6 minutes in length but for the full impression, watch it all. Then follow the above link and read Scott’s article. I guarantee, they will both have an effect on you. When you have finished, come back and I’ll explain as best I can “Why I love photography.”
OK. I’m assuming most of you went back and viewed the video and read the article. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that any of us have to agree with Scott on everything he stated. That’s ok though because what he spoke of were his goals, his reasoning and his views. That’s the way it should be. However, as I mentioned earlier, the combination of the two (the article and video) really got me to thinking, what is my legacy? I mean really; what is it; my children or my work or who I’ve influenced or my photos or a combination of many? Further more, is it something I’ve never even considered? What should it be? Is it realistic? Is it meaningful? Does it have a purpose and meaning that carries with it a worth well beyond my days on this earth? I know; too many questions. So please allow me to step back and fill in some gaps.
From the deepest pockets of memory cells, the recollection of paging through old picture albums and boxes of photos remains fresh in my mind. The people, the places, trains, cars, gatherings and pets were there to see – just as they had existed at sometime in the past. And of course there was National Geographic; the slick and delightful magazine that then and now sparks my imagination. Each issue took this simple country boy to places which he could only dream of. By the time I was 7, my mom let me start using her old Kodak Brownie camera (only under her supervision of course). Then a couple of years later, she was away on a trip to visit my older brother Bob and she came home with a Kodak Pony 135 Model C just for me. It was a used model, had a brown case, a simple view finder and a “your best guess” range finder. But me, I had a 35mm camera and thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
I learned tons from experimenting and using that little gem (pictured above). But more importantly, it was with that little camera and the encouragement of my mom that a dream grew. I vividly recall being in the 8th grade and the class receiving the assignment for each of us to write an essay on what it was that we wanted to do in life. The topic of my essay was a simple decision; to become a landscape and wildlife photographer.
Years passed, interests, friends and needs changed. But the desire to “make pictures” continued. It was while in grad school that I scraped up enough money to buy a used Canon F1 and a couple of off-brand lenses. At that time I also discovered that slide film and development was a whole lot cheaper than printing all those pictures; I’ve still got boxes of slides to prove that point! The urges continued and a few sporadic trips to the Rockies and assorted states resulted in additional slides and photo albums. I even set up a dark room and processed my own pictures for a few years. But then we added on to and remodeled our home. The dark room became a casualty and photographic efforts slumbered. And thus it was that family and work priorities kept the photography dream pretty much boxed up next to the dusty containers of past places and memories.
Years passed and life went through continued stages. Lots of things changed in 2007. My attitude had matured concerning the fragile nature of life and along with it a recognition that as much as we planned, we could not ever be sure there would be a tomorrow. We had moved in to a different home, both of us were working and our family was healthy. For reasons unknown, the blend of maturity and life events collaborated to intensify the urge to photograph again. Thank God, when I asked what Susan thought of me pre-ordering this fancy new Nikon D300, she encouraged me to go forward with it. Early in the winter, the anticipated equipment finally arrived and another chapter of life was begun. With the digital camera now coming with a lifetime supply of digital film, there was no stopping me now! Of course with that purchase, the addition of lenses, tripods, flashes, software and a second D300 has followed over time. You shoot, you analyze, you learn, you go out and do it again. Over time, you start to develop consistency and hopefully produce some higher quality results.
So that brings us back to the question, “Why do I love photography?” Well, I’ve always loved nature and animals. I’ve marveled at the texture of a feather, the padding of a paw, and the delicate petal of an iris. There are times when I’m out looking for a photo opportunity, that I will just sit there with the camera on my lap as I stare in wonder and awe at the beauty, strength, fragility and completeness that lies before me. Yes, many a time I’ve pulled off my glasses and rubbed flannel sleeves across my eyes to clear away a tear or two so that I could see more clearly. You see, sometimes the whole of creation just gets to me as I realize how small I am and how awesome our Creator is. It’s really a wonderful feeling! And you know what, with a click of the shutter, I’m able to capture that unique moment; to hold for endless recall in the future and to share with others. That split second that was unlike any other in all of time! Were there similar scenes in the past? Yes. Will there be comparable ones in the future? Most likely. But none, no not a single one, will ever be exactly the same as it was at that very instant. Yet the photograph enables that moment, that scene and that mishmash of creation to be preserved and shared long after we are gone.
Don’t get me wrong, not every excursion out to capture some photos of nature is that moving. Actually at most times I’m really wrapped up in the moment and trying like mad to get the best shot I can while the light, angle, subject, motion, clouds, etc. are just right. Following those sessions, it’s when I’m home at the computer screen reviewing those captures that I sit back and marvel again at the total wonder of creation. And yes, as I’m editing and screening those slides, there are times when the shirt sleeve gets yet another workout. I feel so blessed to have been allowed the opportunity to observe and record.
So you see, for me, photography is a form and story of worship. I’m out there seeking that unique moment in creation. A smidgen of time that will never be exactly repeated but that I will be permitted to hold and share and reproduce and view again and again. It is here that the message from the Kodak video keeps coming back to me; kind of like the voice in “Field of Dreams”.
.….. Keep me.
………… Protect me.
……………… Share me.
…………………… And I will live forever.
To keep those once in eternity moments in a box or digitized on a hard drive is selfish. I can only hope to become continuously better at improving my skills and abilities at both capturing and sharing these split second twinkles in time. Is this my legacy, to capture, keep, protect and share what I’ve been allowed to see? Time will tell. For now, I must simply do the best I can. And you know what? I will. Because I love photography.