Thank you everyone for all your thought provoking responses on the last post. It’s given me a lot to chew on, amidst the fifty unrelated things I’ve been inundated with. So of course, I go nightwalking to give my head some room to breathe.
Flemming’s comment hit on the reason that prompted me to write that post in the first place – that one needs to feel like a photographer from within, to own that identity.
I am a lot of things – woman, colleague, wife, office monkey, walker, designer, internet addict etc. Some of these facets are consciously performed, some are bestowed on my by profession, status in society, and others I am compelled to do so by forces beyond my willing control. Photography fits into none of those categories fully, but dips into all of them simultaneously. I’ll go into some detail on this one.
I am not addicted to taking pictures, nor compelled to doing it for its own sake any longer. It is rapidly ceasing to become about the photo at all. I find these days that if I can’t take a bit of time to play with a situation or subject in my head, I don’t shoot it at all. It has become a great conduit to service my curiosity about random things, and often is an entry pass into places I’d never otherwise get near. There is a reason that tug boats, race cars, random roadside scenes and moving people make multiple appearances here.
I’d like to be a professional photographer one day, but it kind of feels like cheating given I generally shoot for myself. It’s all about me, this: my curiosity, my mind, my perspective, my satisfaction. Exchanging photographs for money and exclamations of approval/pleasure still often feels like it’s more about luck than a solid provision of service. I know this is part of a creative profession, but right now, I live in the world of an office chimp, so this sort of thing is still pleasantly surprising when I stop to think about it.
Another reason why I still feel like i’m “kind of” a photographer is output related. I haven’t created a solid body of work that I sweated and teared for yet. I’m one of those people who needs to suffer in some way to feel ownership. And by suffer I don’t mean bleed, I just mean allowing it to get under my skin so it shoves me right out of my comfort zone and mucks with my head. It means I’m really experiencing/exploring something rather than just skimming over it, which is what I have done with most of these things so far. It’s the only way I know to that I am creating something intense, involved and wholly owned. The proverbial pound of flesh. Tug boats are the closest I’ve come to this, but the logistics of getting to them means I don’t get to engage with them half as much as I’d like to, to my continuing dismay.
The last of these “why i am not a real photographer” reasons is that it’s never just been about the photography. I’ll take/make imagery in whatever suitable form I get can my hands on.
I first started this blog to showcase the odd shot or two and remove the wordiness factor of former blogs (says she, 500 words later). But if there’s one thing I can say with certainty it’s this: I like to write. You can tell, i’m sure. Writing is part of imagery. As is video, another outlet I’m dying to take for a spin. In my idler youth I spent a lot of time with pencils/pens and sketchpads. More probably, than I’ll ever spend with a camera by ratio. That was a truly meditative activity, but it requires long, long spans of single-task-only time I can’t commit to anymore.
I guess at the end of the day the reason I have problems saying “I am a photographer” with a straight face, is first, I’m not really giving my all to this presently, and also that I don’t believe it’s the end of the road. I’d like to go pro eventually (and have a sweet, simple bio statement like Stephen Alvarez on his Vimeo or Twitter pages… whoa!), but I’d also like to tell stories in other mediums – still images, moving ones, audio, text, hologram (if only!), or a combination of several. Don’t know if I’ll be any good at any of them, but that’s the aspiration. I return to still images for my creative process though, so maybe that’s what defines the inner identity.
And so after all of that, I can and will say that I am a photographer because the still image is what feeds my imagination. And as Jamie Paterson pointed out, “if you enjoy and participate in photography, then you are by definition a photographer.”
And sometimes it’s just as simple as that.
So today, I’m taking the “aspiring” out of my blog’s byline.