A PHOTOGRAPHER'S MANIFESTO
I don’t have a cliché story about how I grew up taking pictures and how I always knew I wanted to be a photographer or videographer. I wanted to be a painter. But when I started applying to art colleges, I was persuaded that being an artist wasn’t a viable or profitable career. So I put art on the backburner. It wasn’t until I majored in journalism in college that I was really introduced to cameras. On a limb, I decided to take a photography class in Oaxaca, Mexico that changed my perception of photography, and made me fall in love with the art.
Some may say that photography isn’t an art at all…that
anyone can take a picture. But photography is distinctly different
than simply taking a picture. Anyone can capture a moment, but
not many have the ability to produce a purposefully crafted image.
People often take pictures on vacation, of birthdays or
graduations. Some people’s motive to taking pictures is to simply
show off to their friends on Facebook. Of course there’s value in
capturing moments with loved ones, or important moments in
your life, but there’s value in a beautifully designed photograph
that tells a story.
Only great photographers take great photos. I’m not suggesting that you necessarily have to go to school for photography, or become a professional, but there are basic things that every photographer should know. There is more to photography than pointing the camera at someone or something. Put 100 photographers in a room and they will all have 100 different photographs. But in order to bring your creative vision to life, it’s imperative to know and understand the controls of the camera. I know my gear like the back of my hand, from my lens range all the way down to the length of my tripod.
Much like a playwright, photographers are story tellers. You can tell a story with a single photo, series, or portfolio. Everything decision you make when taking a photograph has to be intentional. Brightness, composition, lines, angles, colors, and depth of field all come together to relay a message.
I had a friend who seemingly woke up one day and decided to be a photographer. She bought a camera and immediately started charging people to take their senior portraits. When I looked at her pictures, I was very disappointed. They all looked like someone with a camera (who woke up one day and decided to be a photographer) took those pictures. And that’s the difference between someone with a camera, and an actual photographer; you can feel the difference. And I didn’t feel connected to the pictures. She had the audacity to charge people money with no prior training, experience, or love for photography. It’s disrespectful to the craft that I will likely spend a lifetime trying to perfect.
Throughout my college career, I’ve had some amazing opportunities to travel internationally and create series that all narrate culturally different storylines. I’ve been lucky enough to learn from some of the best photographers around the world, and equally lucky to teach new photographers all that I know. I hope to continue that the rest of my life.
I don’t leave my creativity at home. I shoot with my heart, instinct, and passion. With photography, unlike simply taking pictures, you are deeply invested in the images you produce. I shoot with intention, and I am deeply passionate about what I do.
Great photography has the ability to change the world. Think of all the Pulitzer Prize winning photographs. From the famous “Napalm Girl” photograph that showed Americans the horrors of the Vietnam War. To the award-winning photograph of a vulture waiting for a little girl to die and eat her, which exposed the hunger crisis in Sudan. I believe in photography’s power to influence humanity, spark change, and inspire creativity.