Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Why do I do what I do?
I have reflected on this blog, in interviews and even on the radio about this question, but I’m pretty sure I have never given myself the opportunity to answer it on my own terms, so here goes.
My point of view has always been that images are a representation of one tiny moment in time. They are the proof and remembrance of something that happened once; something we will never get back. They freeze fractions of a second into lasting memories for the people, environments or events they portray. Images convey ideas and realities to others, they bring awareness to issues otherwise unseen, they inspire and motivate, they educate and open minds. They hold the power of truth, the beauty of simplicity, and the bond of meaning.
For me, photographs are pure.
I know someone out there reading this is thinking about every way to counter what I have just described with editing software, set up situations, paparazzi, etc…. But that is not what I am talking about.
I am talking about the real pictures that hold meaning to real people. Whether it is a picture in National Geographic that changed your perspective or a Polaroid of the diapered child version of yourself that your Mom keeps in her favorite photo album, photographs have an innate ability to stir deep emotion.
In the midst of all of the chaos that comes from making a career out of shooting pictures, a photographer can forget what is most important, and it is in those periods that your own world of photography will help remind you of it’s purest intentions. I have learned that as a photographer, your photographs actually affect you the least. It is the people around you, in your life and in your photographs that are the ones who feel the ripple effect of your work.
I spent last weekend saying goodbye to a lost friend (Life IS Short Pt. III) in a special place. It was not an easy thing to do, but we had some images on hand that showed moments of his life ranging from childhood to fun outdoor adventures to his wedding with the love of his life. Over time I have contributed a few images to the pot of visual memories of our friend, and at the time they just felt like cool fun images. Now, they all hold much deeper meaning to everyone in our group. When I look back on it all, I can’t imagine how things would be if I had not clicked the shutter those few precious times. Would we otherwise lose those treasured moments in the flood of visual and emotional experiences we have everyday?
Maybe not, but one thing is certain, pictures bring those memories and the quality of those moments front and center. They help you remember small details and particulars you can’t explain. For me, they brought back the voice of my friend. When I saw those pictures of him I remembered the sound of his voice when he was completely engaged in conversation. It was nice.
(Our pal Mike making us laugh and serving up his famous tartiflette.)
Photographs bring it all back, but they also have a way of paying it forward.
My world of photography sent me another, more upbeat reminder of why I am in love with pictures over Memorial Day Weekend. I was in Sonoma, California with my girlfriend and her family and had the fortune of meeting her two younger cousins. They are both involved in their local Boy Scout troop and have been looking at my images in Boys’ Life Magazine for as long as they have been scouts. 30 seconds into our introduction, the older of the two pulled out the most recent Boys’ Life and pointed out the cover story, which I shot.
In that moment I saw the excitement in his face and the curiosity in his mind. He began asking questions about that trip and others like it. He thought about his own troop, and what it would be like to go on a trip like that.
Those images meant something to him (and his five year old brother), and I can only hope that they mean something to the other 1.5 million Boy Scouts that read that magazine. Though I have always known the magazine’s circulation, I never had the connection to Boys’ Life readers that I do now. Now I can see the face of young and unbridled enthusiasm and curiosity. I can hear the gears turning in their heads, thinking, “Maybe I can go on a trip like this one day?” Now I know that as much as photography has given to me, I am also responsible for paying that forward to others.
My pictures had inspired these two, and in turn, they have inspired me right back.
In its purest form, photography is still as honest, beautiful and meaningful as it has always been. Every picture means something to someone, and THAT is why I am a photographer.
Thank you Liam and Kieran, I will keep doing my best!
(Most recent Boys' Life cover from a trip to the Bahamas.)
- Posted by Trevor Clark
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