Recently I’ve been watching photography documentaries and reading about various photographers and why they photograph. Consequently, I’ve been thinking about why I fell in love with photography
It’s pretty simple.
I wanted to document life, my life and the lives of those around me. I wanted to capture a person how they really were in a particular moment.
The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.” — Andy Warhol
I still want to document life and since my life now entertwines with those of my children, I find my lens often focused on them.
I document the lives of my children so I can remember the good, fun, crazy, true, and real moments of their childhood and through that they can remember them too.
Photography captures that one specific moment, isolating it from all the others. Photographs tell a story when words can’t or simply aren’t enough.
“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.
When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” — Ansel Adams
Capturing a specific moment or person and revealing the truth within the frame is something that is so clear in the photos taken by Vivian Maier. Maier never shared her photographs with anyone. Instead her art was private to her and for her. Her images captured the lives of the children she nannied but also the characters of Chicago in the1950s, 60s, and 70s. More than simply “taking a picture”, she revealed the souls of people most of us never see. We see a man on the sidewalk and he’s wearing a torn shirt and his shoes are covered in mud, but we don’t really see him because we are on our way somewhere, or maybe he makes us uncomfortable and we are afraid to make eye contact.
In her images we have the chance to truly see the people, and the world, she photographed. We see them the way she saw them.
The chance to slow life down and truly see it, each part of it, each detail, each person, each place, each memory is what draws me to photography.
I find myself wondering why Maier didn’t want to share her art with others. We each see the world in our own way and sharing how we see the world can be both exciting and terrifying.Maybe Maier photographed what she saw so she would know she was there. Many of her images featured her in either reflection or shadowed form as if to say “I was real. I existed. You didn’t see me, but I was part of this adventure called life.”
She wanted to remember life in her own way, document it in images, instead of words.
Photography, like any art, is often selfish. We want to capture or freeze a moment in time for our own pleasure, our own benefit, our own need to interpret life somehow.
Artists document their view of life in paintings, in sketches, in photography, in the written word.
I’ll admit that I compare myself to other photographers too often. Last week I told my brother’s wife (who incidentally has her own blog called Dispatches from the Northern Outpost), that I was submitting to a photography magazine but that I felt my work wasn’t good enough.
She told me: “You have to maybe trust the other voice, not the ‘I can’t,I’m not, It isn’t possible’ voice, but the one that made you pick up a camera in the first place.”
Sometimes that voice is drowned out by the screams of doubt, or the voice of some other photographer or artist.
I’m finding myself struggling to hear my own voice most days and the prominance of social media makes the struggle even harder.
This next month I plan to turn down the volume on the other voices and raise my own voice again.
“I have heard other photographers say things like, ‘I went to photography school and I don’t know what to shoot because when I shoot something I mentally compare my image to so and so or so and so,’ And finally they feel so weighted down by references that it hinders their photographic practices. I don’t have any photographic influences, I don’t have any master, and I prefer to stay a good distance away from photographic culture. What matters is shooting what you feel like shooting, concentrate on that and the equipment comes second.”
— Alain Laboile, photographer, France
Find Vivian Maier’s work here: http://www.vivianmaier.com/