As photographers, we know that there is a fairly wide range of options available to us that change what was to what we show the world in our images. Every photograph is a composite of the choices we make as the person who eventually presents the image. Every photograph is an interpretation of the way the world really looks.
An early influence on my ways of thinking about photography on a deeper level was the great writer John Berger. A poet, novelist, artist screenwriter and more, Berger, born in 1926, and died just a few weeks ago, in January of 2017 at the age of 90. A read of Berger’s work gives great insight into what meaning we derive from looking, seeing and photographing.
Walt Whitman’s poems in his opus Leaves of Grass mirror the actions of the photographer by beginning with facts and transforming those facts into ideas. I explore how both photography and Whitman’s poetry use simple language to convey complex ideas, giving any object or experience new importance by recording it on a previously blank page.
What drives and motivates photographers to do the work they do? I think that our unifying motivation is curiosity – an unrelenting, never-ending curiosity – an “itch” to know more about something and to learn about that thing through photographing it.
I was prompted to think about how we should cultivate the itch – our curiosity – and not the scratch by this quote from photographer Sabastião Salgado:
“If you’re young and have the time, go and study. Study anthropology, sociology, economy, geopolitics. Study so that you’re actually able to understand what you’re photographing. What you can photograph and what you should photograph.”