In the previous post, I mentioned that Tom Passin pointed me to a book review on a blog called Slate Star Codex. That blog is written by "Scott Alexander," which the writer describes as "almost but not quite my real name." I just thought it was interesting, in light of the complaints I get about not writing about photography exclusively enough, to hear how "Scott" describes his blog: "I really want to be one of those people with the neat one-subject blogs who can introduce themselves as 'the guy with the blog about X,' but the universe is way too interesting for that to remotely work."
Well, as you know, I'm the guy with the blog about photography...and it "remotely" works. :-)
But probably the reason why it works is that photography is never actually really about photography. Photography is almost always about something else.
As for what kinds of something elses, well, that's a very big tent. It can be about information, ideas, exploration, personal expression; objects, passions, the documenting of activities, style or mannerism, or decoration. And on and on.
This next notion probably puts me on thin ice, but I might even go so far as to say that the least successful photographers are just interested in photography. And what might that look like? Well, imagine someone who reduces photographs to common genres and then tries to "collect" examples of each genre. Such a hobbyist might have his night shots, his macro shots, his landscapes, his travel photos; his portraits, his boudoir pictures, his underwater shots, and so forth. (The amusing thing is, I can actually conceive of that being an interesting project if the photographer could walk the knife's edge between conformity and inventiveness without falling off.) Or imagine a photographer who did the same thing, but with technical categories and types of equipment as the organizing principle.
Doesn't really sound like it would work, does it? It isn't until the photographer's mind migrates to her real interests that she stands a chance of really being a photographer.
The medium is peculiar that way. You can really only be a photographer when your passion for taking pictures somehow transcends photography, and engages or meshes with other concerns, interests, and passions. Being "just" a photographer is a way to keep yourself from being a photographer, you might say.
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Featured Comments from:
Thomas Rink: "My favourite sujet are the 'edgelands' (i.e. unkempt places, disused for industrial or urban development) in the area where I live. I feel attracted by the untamed chaos and visual complexity of those places, and started my first project on such a place three years ago. It led to a body of work which I like a lot, and I am currently working on subsequent projects. Now back on topic: This brought up a couple of questions, namely 'How to present this to the viewer?' or, more generally, 'Why would anybody want to look at this?' and, finally, 'What caused me to take these pictures in the first place?' These might be startling questions—you know, someone who takes pictures of Yosemite takes it for granted that everybody finds this beautiful—but a disused coal mining area?? I started to dig into definitions of the Beautiful, into the theory of aesthetics and the arts, looked for analogies in music and poetry—and I find all this highly interesting.
"Now, I don't know if I'm a 'photographer' at all, or if my work is any good—but the journey is exciting for sure."
Jim R: "'Tis true. Photography is one of my great hobbies/passions, but recently I've been a mere gearswapper and snapshooter, not at all a photographer. I've also been a caregiver, so all of my hobbies are paused for a greater cause. My spouse's health is improving, so I'm settling down on gear and anticipating more free resources (time and a bit of cash). Soon I plan to relax, look around, learn the full abilities of the K-3II, and add my own abilities to create images worthy of the passion that comes from what I see."
Mike replies: Sounds exciting!
Matt: "In even fewer words, I believe photography is about sensitivity, awareness, perception, aesthetics, impression (more so than expression, as you can't express what you don't perceive)...."