Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why Photography?

John W. Adkins I  1941-2010

Photographers as a rule, seem to be a funny bunch (ranking myself high in the herd).  Its hard to say why one chooses to become a photographer and I suspect the reasons number like the stars in the sky.  Some folks may enjoy the sheer artistic merit of photography while others may just like tinkering with glass, plastic and magnesium alloy.  Its also entirely possible that the reasons people are photographers have changed over the course of their maturity in to the craft.  For example, someone may have bought a camera simply to enjoy chronicling their children's rise to adulthood, then discovered that they had a hidden talent or a simple passion for the desire to produce memorable images.  Whatever the reasons, photography can be a rewarding pursuit in either hobby or career, albeit much easier in the former. ;)  More after the jump...

I've often thought about what drives me personally to photography with its successes and frustrations.  Its actually a pretty deep question to ask yourself if you're in this profession.  I've had a camera in my hands since I was a young fella still playing with Star Wars and G.I. Joe toys.  I would set up mock battles and then photograph them, having no idea why I wanted to do this.

Perhaps its because both of my parents were in to photography and documented every waking moment on every type of film imaginable.  My dad had traveled the world while in the military and was interested in all the historic locations he had only previously read about, while my mom was more interested in photographing the kids and places around her hometown.  In any case, I guess I just thought that they are photographers of some sort, so I must be too.

Being a child of parents who were photographers, gave me the opportunity to have a camera in my hands just about any time.  My first camera was actually a Polaroid Sun Camera (you know, one of those instamatic jobs) and I photographed everything from my toys, to my sister asleep and snoring (I still catch hell for this one), to my friends, and I still have most of those photos and enjoy occasionally going back and admiring at just how sucky a photographer I actually was ...and to reminisce about what I captured.

As I got older in to my teens, I was always carrying a camera around with me snapping photos of my friends in school.  I honestly had no desire to "be a photographer" but still enjoyed taking photos of things that were important to me.  Around this time I also got into photographing sunsets and sunrises.  Granted I saw a lot more sunsets than sunrises but they both fascinated me equally with all of the majestic colors and brush strokes that someone above saw fit to so caring paint on his canvas.  Somewhere around this time I started to really "look" for things to photograph as I opposed to just grabbing a slice of time.

By the time I hit my late teens and early 20s I was having my rounds through college and as you may have guessed, I still had some sort of a camera with me just about all the time.  I even convinced the yearbook staff at my first college that I was a true, honest-to-goodness photographer and managed to weasel my way in to a position as an "auxiliary shooter" for the yearbook, even though I didn't know the first thing about developing film.  Hell, I could barely get film wound on the take-up reel or get it out of my camera, much less develop it ...that's what labs were for.  However, in my infinite slyness I managed to procure an old Nikon F2 with a motor drive and a nifty 50, now I WAS a photographer... or at least that's what I managed to convince so many unsuspecting pretty young ladies in college of.  I took so many portraits I had a boot box full of 8x10 prints of a LOT of students, most of them pretty young girls, and a few photographs that the college even used.  I must've have angered someone though (most likely a jealous boyfriend) because one weekend while I was gone, my bootbox of photos got stolen out of my dorm room.  I went on hiatus from photography for a while after that.

After I came home from school, I didn't get started back in to photography for a few years because I was used to shooting rolls and rolls of film and having them developed for free at the school lab.  Trying that in the real world, proved a little too costly to keep up shooting like that.

Over the next few years I shot with various film cameras until lo-and-behold the digital camera arrived!  Actually it had been out for a few years but I'm always the last on the tech-y bandwagon and still wasn't too convinced about shooting digital.  I didn't even have a computer at the time *GASP* but I did break down and purchase a little 1.0 MP Fuji point-n-shoot digital camera... and I LOVED it!  That little camera even traveled with me to South Africa!  I was totally impressed with the quality (it would produce awesome 8x10s) and once I got a computer and figured out how to use Photoshop (talking PS5 here, no CS back then) I was off and running with photography again.

It didn't take long though before the point-n-shoot just wasn't cutting it for me in terms of having a "real" camera, so after a little convincing by a friend, I purchased my first digital SLR, the Nikon D70.  I finally felt like I had the best of both worlds, an SLR that produced digital files and my love for shooting was sparked yet again!

 I took my time getting back in to the craft though, feeling like with digital I was starting all over again, even though in all reality the transition to digital was not as huge as I might have imagined.  The cameras were essentially the same, but instead of film and 24 exposures, I now had a chip to contend with and around 300 digital files!!!!  HOLY CRAP, now that was different.  Digital has spoiled me but also gave me a new thirst for that perfect photograph.  I still love photography now as much as did when I first got my hands on a film SLR.

So why photography?  After thinking about it for some time I believe, for me anyways, the conclusion is the memories.  I've often looked at various scenes with my pale blue steely eyes and thought, 'man that would make a great photograph, if I only I had my camera with me I could capture that scene forever'.  Actually that still happens, almost daily in fact, and while a lot of my photography is not something I do for my own memories, it might be something I do for someone else's which is almost just as good in my book.  Its also an artistic outlet for me and keeps those creative juices flowing, but if I had to contribute it just one thing, its definitely the memories.  I've made a lot of images over the years that still mean a lot to me, and I continue to look for those that will move me in to the future.

On a very relevant note, today is the birthday of my most favorite model, pal, critic, assistant and general all around comforting companion, one who I hope I create many more wonderful memories with.  Happy Birthday Jennifer, I love you and can't wait to make more memories with you!

Sorry to ramble on so long in what seems like a personal narrative of my life.  If you've hung in this far, what's the answer to the question, 'why photography' for you?  I think figuring that out for oneself can really drive you in the right direction and fulfill you with an eternity of inspiration and subject matter.

Here's to the memories.



Mike said...

Photography for me is a means to escape. The ability to go out in nature and actually see what's in front of me for the first time. Photography for me is a really deep and passionate thing for me. Nature and photography go hand in hand.

You seem like a really great guy, John. I hope all is well with you and Happy Birthday to Jenn!

John said...

Thanks Mike for the kind words! I have to say, I agree with your idea of "escape". Sometimes when I have a lot of weight on my shoulders, a good shoot can be an awesome stress reliever.