Reflecting on a Photo Walk with Anna
I had started work on this blog entry over half a year ago. But I never got around to finishing it, given other more pressing reviews or ideas. But as I near the one year mark of this blog, I've decided to give this blog entry another try.
Besides, there is nothing else for me to write about, given the slow news cycle and no new gear to review. So, please indulge me a little.
I want to write about something I picked up on my first photowalk with Anna. It was a little over a month after the first time we started working together. She asked me if I would mind her tagging along. Normally, I go on photowalks alone. Perhaps it's because I've been solitary for a very long time. But then I agreed, since I thought it would have been a good excuse to review my Canon 5D Mark IV.
All work and no play, I guess.
However, that review never came to be. Instead of testing frame rates or autofocus speed, my attention quickly turned to Anna's photographic process.
Anna was like a foil. It wasn't something I expected. In observing her, I began to notice traits about her which felt familiar. She reminded me much of myself many years ago, photographing things I no longer photographed. At first, I wanted to correct her. But then I thought about it. What was my reason to do such a thing? It's not as if she asked me for advice. So instead, I decided to let it go. And in doing so, I became increasingly aware of just how critical I've become with my own photographic process by watching her.
Perhaps I've become jaded with life, or perhaps I've lost that youthful exuberance of curiosity and wonderment in seeing things for the first time. With experience comes reservation, and sometimes, I feel as if knowing too much can be a cause for creative restraint. Indeed, a little learning can become a dangerous thing.
So when I see Anna with a camera, I find her approach and attitude towards photography to be a humbling experience. There isn't anything she wouldn't consider, and there isn't anything too mundane or pedestrian to document... or at least that is how it appears from my relatively more experienced perspective. She approaches each photographic opportunity without second guessing the significance of her capture. And I think she actually enjoys it.
The thing is, I don't recall the last time when I actually went out on a photowalk to take pictures for the sake of leisure. For so long, everything I photographed had to be purposeful. I shot street style for the sake of documenting trends for work, and when I stopped working in the fashion industry, shooting street style no longer made sense to me. In fact, street photography no longer made sense to me at all. And so I've been soul searching, trying to make sense why I should continue the practice of photographing people I don't know.
In retrospect, I think that my need to shoot with purpose is a consequence from years of being mentored and subsequently years of mentoring others. You can't help it, if your photography is work based, with budgets, planning, and deadlines. When you shoot for work, you're no longer shooting for yourself. You're shooting for others. And that does alter your perception of the entire process and practice of photography.
I suppose it was at that time that I decided to start this blog. I needed a purpose for my photography. And rather humorously, I needed a reason to justify my interest in photographic gear - and believe me, I do like my photographic gear.
Still, I don't believe I will begin to frame the world with youthful eyes for the first time. I am who I am, and I have seen what I've seen. The world had ceased to amaze me the way it did when I was a novice starting out - now with my eyes hardened by experience.
But like all experiences, my photowalk with Anna has taught me a profound lesson. It's okay to take pictures without purpose. Dare I say, it's even okay to take pictures for fun. In the end, isn't that really the best reason to take pictures? To capture forever a moment of happiness.
Admittedly, there will always be a time when photography will be defined by purpose - whether by work or some other kind of obligatory documentation. But to always photograph with purpose will limit your scope to the extent of its definition. Invariably, you will end up missing opportunities, because you won't be able to see beyond that scope.
With that said, having a purpose is strangely reassuring. It simplifies the photographic process by limiting what you can document by editing out anything that falls outside the parameter of your purpose. But now that I've become more aware of this crutch, I am hoping to change. It is okay to photograph fruit stalls, other people's dogs, and all things mundane. I shouldn't be so harsh in judging what to photograph. In the end, it's all about one's own documentation for one's own sake. And if the resulting images provide a measure of satisfaction, then it's all worth it. It's what makes photography fun.
This is the lesson I picked up that day in going on a photowalk with Anna. And she didn't even know she taught me something. Not exactly what I normally write about. But I've been particularly reflective, as we approach the one year mark of this blog.
All images have been optimized in Lightroom. Some images have been cropped.