I wasn’t able to see the potential of my photographs for the longest time. I felt like I was forcing myself to shoot just for the sake of shooting. I could write about photography, but my images seemed pedestrian without any soul or life to them.
There were many times in the last decade where I would instantly delete photos after looking at them on my LCD. When I first starting shooting film I only had 24 of 36 shots on a roll, which made me shoot sparingly. For some reason, even though I use large memory cards today, I still only take a few shots and still shoot sparingly. Because of this habit, I tended to delete frames on the spot.I would end up at home with just a few images that just looked like snapshots. I was frustrated and gave photography up for a while. But in it’s absence I began noticing more and more work that moved me. I decided to become a student of photography by reading, exploring new photographers, and immersing myself in my own photographic evolution.
The moment that shaped how I see photography today was discovering Sam Abell. He taught me through his photographs and books (The Life of a Photography; Stay This Moment) that a photograph can tell a story, and that each pictures has a life of its own.
Sam Abell is a photographer that describes his photographic process in a spiritual and philosophical way that resonates with me. Abell seems to be able to tell a narrative through his photographic essays that he’s captured for National Geographic; whether if it was Montana cowboy’s castrating and branding cattle, or the skull of a Buffalo laying in the snow as a living Buffalo stands stoically in the background.
He showed me that there was something special about any given moment, and by being patient you can find a story unfolding right in front of your eyes. Abell helped me internalize my experiences and look at my words and pictures from a more spiritual and objective place.
Photography became about seeing something that only a portion of my eye was able to focus in on. When we see the world with our eyes it’s a wide panorama with peripheral views at every angle; but when you look through a viewfinder, binoculars, or telescope, you are forced to see just a small slice of the world. By focusing on one thing at a time, it gave me the patience to compose and wait, instead of being hasty and forcing shots.
Photography became more than just a pretty picture to me, instead it changed how I saw the world. Instead of just pictures I saw narratives and stories behind every image I consumed, whether it was from an amateur or professional photographer.
I realized I didn’t really understand photography, not until I found out what it meant to me: It was the ability to illustrate words with images to the stories I wanted to tell. It changed how I saw everything. Instead of focusing on the world at every angle, I chose places that had an anchor to them. It became a meditation of place and subject.
I realized photography is many different things to different people: it’s an art, its documentation, it’s someone’s point of view, it’s a vacation where pictures capture happy moments with your family you never want to forget; it’s a witness to the inhumanity of war, it’s the world at a certain point in time that captures the pain of the Great Depression, etc. To me, photography is a meditation on life that provides the photographer with the ability to see things from an objective lens.
I am looking forward to becoming a better photographer and uncovering more stories from the road. To me photography is a meditation on life; a fraction of a second which allows you to stop time to seize and capture the world unfolding.