In photography we often answer the questions what and how rather than why.
We think about what we will photograph and how to best achieve the capture, but we don’t often ask ourselves why we are taking photographs in the first place.
That question might not seem as important to our photography as the other two, but in my view, giving time to considering why we take photos can go a long way to improving our practice.
It gives us an increased awareness of our inner motivation, and this is what can keep us going in times when getting out and taking photographs is proving difficult.
Sometimes, to really find the answer to why we photograph we can go back to when we first got interested in photography and discover what it was about this pursuit that fired our imagination and kept us coming back to it, even if we have abandoned it for a while.
When I look back to where my photography journey started, I think about one photograph in particular, a photograph that stands out in my memory.
My first camera was a relatively inexpensive film camera, and most of my first photographs were of people posing for the camera.
This photograph was different. It was a spontaneous capture, a moment, a look between two people that was caught on camera, and It was the first time that I felt I had done something slightly more creative with my camera.
That photograph marked a turning point for me; it was the beginning of branching away from staged family portraits and trying to use my camera in a more creative way.
Connected to this change in my perspective was a visit to the studio of a local photographer.
I remember entering an Aladdin’s cave of interesting smells and a visual feast of amazing landscape images of local locations.
Seeing what was possible in photography gave me the inspiration to upgrade my camera and begin to capture my own visual interpretations in local places.
I believe that my early photography experiences moulded my love for making images and for creative photography in particular.
When I reflect on the why of my photography, I understand the drive to make photographs that I have today, and this knowledge continues to motivate and inspire me.
I particularly love to experiment and try out different techniques. I am often surprised by the results.
Today I can still ask myself the question, why do I take photographs?
What is it that motivates me to go out, often early in the morning or in inclement weather, to capture a sunrise?
What is it that inspires me to wait around when I see the possibility that the sun will come out and light up the scene in front of me?
What is it that encourages me to take a camera in my hand and go out in search of a pleasing composition even though I may be the only one who sees the final image?
I do this because:
Taking a photo makes me feel something, something I can’t explain, something deep inside me. When I take a camera in my hand and go out to make an image, I feel alive, connected, engaged with the world around me.
There is an empathy with nature that comes with being out among the natural elements - discovering what lies among woodland trees, strolling on deserted beaches, hiking across hills and valleys or exploring country lanes and byways - an empathy that brings an immense sense of oneness and connectedness that encourages me to want to share my passion with others.
Photography is a way of expressing myself.
Through my photography I can convey my ideas, thoughts and feelings in a creative, visual way. It is a visual language which helps me to express emotions that I find hard to put into words.
Photography challenges me.
The drive to get better at photography is a strong motivating factor. I might shoot 100 photos and among them discover one that I really like, one that has turned out exactly as I wanted it to. It is that photo that keeps me going out, trying something new, building on what I like.
Photography motivates me to experience more in life.
When I capture the beauty and wonder of the world around me, I immerse myself in the richness of that beauty. Photography helps me to slow down, to see more, to feel more and to appreciate more. Spending time with my camera, intentionally choosing a subject and composing an image, brings a feeling of joy and contentment that is hard to rival.
In photography, what we photograph and how we photograph are important considerations, but asking ourselves why we photograph is also a valid question, one that can have an important influence on our craft.
How would you answer the question, Why Do I Take Photographs?
You might like to read these related posts.
or check out this video outlining reasons why it’s good to reflect on why we take photographs in the first place