I recently read a very interesting article by No Beaten Path called Can you travel without a camera. It made some interesting points, not least of which was about people taking photos to prove that they’ve been somewhere rather than because they liked what they were photographing or wanted to be reminded of the place. This kind of documentation is neither artistic nor experiential in nature and seems rather hollow to me. Photography by it’s very nature is isolating and observational, but a great photographer is also and artist, they need to experience an emotion, a connection with the subject they wish to capture, which lends a depth to it that the snapshot of the “other half” in front of a Pyramid lacks.
As someone with an artistic eye I like to take pictures of things that interested me, a magical, possibly incongruous moment, capturing the fine details that would not otherwise have registered, a single feather trapped in a cobweb, the crumbling stone of a monument. My photographs are living things, when I get them home I open them up in Photoshop and editing them brings back the memory of the experience and this then has an effect on the edited picture. It doesn’t stop there, next the pictures I have chosen to edit are uploaded to flickr, titles, descriptions and tags are carefully chosen to lend additional depth, understanding and meaning. Sometimes a photograph can provide the inspiration for poetry. My end products then act as a reminder to myself not just of the experience I had in taking the photograph, but in the selection of the picture for editing, the journey of the editing experience and finally the story of the embellishments added through words and if I’m lucky the inspiration found and woven into poetry or prose.
I generally always have my camera with me, just in case there is a moment that I need to capture, but don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel the need to photograph every sunset I see, but you never know when an opportunity will present itself and you need to be prepared! I’m often annoyed if I see something that I think is beautiful, unusual or interesting and I don’t have the camera to capture it for posterity and to share with other like minded individuals.
At the other end of the scale I can’t stand it when people take cameras into art galleries, after all the postcards can always be purchased from the gift shop for posterity and if you’re that worried you can always scan them in on the computer back home! Art should be experienced and when you are photographing you are observing not experiencing. Unless your photograph can add something new artistically to the art you have to question why you are taking the picture?
When I travel I like to strike a balance between observing and capturing the beauty of the world around me and experiencing it so that when I do come back and view the pictures the memories will flood back not of just taking pictures, but of the wealth of emotions I felt whilst experiencing the place.
Remember, happy snapping, but not at the expense of your experience.