Do you make photographs that matter to you or do you just take pictures?
I really think you’re missing the boat when you are out and about, just snapping away willy-nilly, as often happens when using digital cameras … or you feel you must take that shot because you just have to come back with something.
Now I seem to be making less photographs and I probably print less than most. Not because I have lost interest. If anything, I think I have more interest than I have ever had before. I think what has changed over time is that I only want to make photographs that I feel a real connection with, be it a single picture or one that is part of a larger project. In other words, I want to make photographs that matter to me. Which means I really don’t care if they matter to anyone else, although if they are liked by others that’s fine. Affirmation is not the driver. What is important is that they matter to me. If not, what’s the point?
When you make photographs that matter to you I think they are more personal and therefore more powerful. After all if there’s a real connection between the photographer and the subject matter doesn’t that translate into stronger images, or at a minimum images that are truly more meaningful to the photographer? I am certain the answer is yes … more strong images and/or more personally meaningful images. The result … more keepers. And with that all sorts of good things happen, from making better photographs more often to making photographs that have a real positive and meaningful impact on your life … often in non-photographic ways!
The picture of my Aunt Anna means a lot to me. Growing up, I didn’t live near her or my grandparents in Watertown, NY, but I had many fond memories of my visits to her old home that she and her eight brothers and sisters (including my dad) grew up in. It always felt the same, with time seeming to stand still. Same house that needed to be painted, same furniture, same pictures on the wall, same knickknacks on the furniture, same snoring at night, same kitchen and the same pancakes that were clearly the best ever! There was one thing for which time just wouldn’t sit still, and that was all of us. I had a young family and much to look forward to, but my aunt’s best days were in her rear view mirror.
That summer I brought my family to visit her and my two other aunt’s still living in Watertown. I asked her to sit in her kitchen next her wonderful old stove that yielded all those great pancakes over the years. It’s one of my favorite photographs and one of those that mean the most to me. I also think it is one of my better photographs.
I never saw Aunt Anna again. She passed away not too long after our visit, but I have a beautiful photograph to remember that last fine day we spent together, and the other little things that really matter in life.
Be rewarded … make photographs that matter to you.