Being a photographer. You think acting is tough. Fame and fortune, for us, are not even far off hopes we dare dream of, or try on. There is no carrot dangled at the end of ten thousand images taken. Photographers don’t imagine some kind of final success — the viewfinder shows us only a world as it is. Photographers shoot and shoot and shoot, rarely moving up, but more often… out. Filling up our lives with images. I saw that. I saw that, too. We gather them, like a hoarder gathers receipts, banking not on a future of wealth and success, but on a much more tangible knowledge — that upon our deathbeds, we will be the ones who leave behind a record of what we saw. We live with a different kind of human comfort. One that offers — regardless what we become, no matter what our failures, shortcomings, accidents or missed opportunities in life might be — that there be one possible thing we rest easy knowing… that the way we saw the world, remains. We may not shape history, but we aspire to a far more human achievement: to bear witness to it.
This is the life of a photographer. A wandering path that blurs lines between journey and destination. One that laughs. Then turns, and cries. Birth, death, suffering, elation — all in a day’s work. Less a road, more an open sea, it’s easy to find one’s self lost. And so, The Photographer’s Creed is offered as our compass. Our own Northern Star.
And if that’s just dust on our sensor, well, we don’t want to know.
The Photographer’s Creed.
I Will Have The Best Camera.
The best one. Not the more affordable one. Not the easiest one. Not the one that’s on my phone. I will have the very best camera. Not for bragging rights. Not for ego. Not for the pixels. But for the using of it. Like a great watch, car, suit, violin or faucet, I will never underestimate the quiet, satisfying power provided by a tool made of the finest materials, by craftsmen. The quality of my camera is in direct relationship to how much I honor the medium. So, I will have the best camera.
And a great strap, too.
My Camera Stays With Me.
I will withstand the criticism, the eye-rolling, the confrontation, the weight, jeering, inconvenience, battery issues, quandary over lens choices, inertia to leave it at home and fear of losing my lens hood in order to keep my camera with me at all times. I will not give in to the notion that I already have a camera with me because there is one on my phone. I will take my camera, my best camera, on vacations, on work trips, to the office, to dinner, to the movies, hiking, to the grocery store and, yes, even to the beach. Because like a writer needs to write everyday, the photographer shoots. Every day. Because we shoot life, and life happens every day.
I Won’t Just Take a Shot. I’ll Make a Shot.
I am not a picture-taker, I’m a journalist of my own ideas. I focus on the subject of my choosing and I compose it to my liking. I’ll stay and take that shot as many times as it takes to get it right. I’ll wait until the light is perfect. I’ll figure out why it’s not coming out the way I want it to, then I’ll go fix that. I’ll get the right person, I’ll follow that person, I’ll get the right expression, I’ll demand the right expression, the right gesture, the right angle, the right exposure and the right framing. And then I’ll make the shot.
I Understand Popularity. I Do Not Do It For Popularity.
I understand that some photographs garner more attention than others. Through the use of models and even certain techniques, filters or angles, I can get likes, wows, even interviews, accolades and features. And while I understand this, and perhaps utilize some of those principles, I am not motivated or driven by it. Popularity is for populists. Populism is for politicians and hookers, seeking to capitalize on the base needs of a population.
As a photographer, I will not strive to appeal to a lowest common denominator, but rather a highest common denominator, seeking to build a catalog of work that a portion of the people can agree is great, even if it is not the majority of people.
This Is My Art.
Photography is not my hobby. It’s not my second job or my passion. It’s not my career or even my love. Photography is simply my art. Art is important. Art is not a class you take in grade school and then mature out of. Art expresses humanity; our emotions, environment, our most revealing truths as people. And while some find their art in music, some through poetry and prose, others paint, dance, sculpt, tattoo, assemble or draw… I photograph. And while others will seek to label it as something different than that, I will always know it and respect it for what it is — my art.
I Will Always Remember My First.
Yes, it is too often written about or mentioned — our first cameras. It smacks of sentimentality and nostalgia. It leans into stereotypes and cliché. And yet, for photographers, that first camera opened a door so personally transformative that it deserves all the attention it gets. And more.
Our first camera defined for us the epiphanaic discovery of our personal calling. It was a mysterious machine, gratifyingly heavy and complex. We learned on it, we learned from it. We became intimate with its parts, bestowed upon it gifts made of glass, fed it with film, satiated its desires and, in return, it loved and provided back with a certain prideful precision and performance. It was not a relationship, it was the relationship.
What’s more, and final, and ultimate — while we upgraded and moved on from our first camera, we never lost the sense of purpose that getting it, holding it and using it brought us. Having it, still, to think back on — even touch — is not just nostalgic, it is a tangible artifact of what makes us happy and fills us with eternal youth. Which makes it synonymous with the Holy Grail.