Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Start of the Practice

After many years pursuing photography as a hobbyist, I decided at the end of 2008 to take a chance and start a professional photography practice. This decision came quickly after a long period of deliberation, with the dam of indecision breaking after a casual conversation with a friend. I sent him a link to some of my photos earlier that day. His reaction was firm: "you have to start charging for this". The husband of a professional photographer, I trust his perspective and value his encouragement. It was what I needed to get off the fence and give it a shot.

In considering my focus for a practice, I thought for a long time about what compels me in taking photographs. Looking back through more than 30,000 photographs in my catalog, my favorites by far, and the images I'm most proud of, are candid portraits. The photographer wife of my encouraging friend specializes in candid portraiture; she is a gifted artist whose work I admire greatly. I have returned to her on-line portfolio dozens of times, studying her photographs and feeling more encouraged and inspired each time. I have achieved intergallactic oneness, just now. I am compelled to find and capture the natural, unstaged emotion in people as they go through their lives, from the daily grind to once-in-a-lifetime events. I allow that the ideal photograph is one that makes the viewer feel something - not necessarily what the subject felt, but maybe invoking some feeling of their own.

The focus for my practice, then, is photojournalistic wedding photography. Where else could I be welcomed with my camera in the middle of dozens, maybe hundreds of people laughing, crying, dancing, feeling? It's the perfect setting, dense beyond compare with ideal photographs waiting to be taken. I know some photographers have a dislike for weddings; people can be difficult, the work is intense and non-stop, the hours are long, and the risk is high. But over the years in my day job I have come to understand that I am like a firefighter who lives for the fire: I'm bored until the pressure is on, and then I'm at my best.

I'm very realistic about my abilities; I have a lot to learn. That won't ever change I'm sure. My goal is not to be better than other photographers. Rather, I aim to take compelling photos that mean something to the viewer, and hopefully to me as well. If I can show a newly married couple the photos I have taken of their wedding and they smile in that genuine way, not with their mouths but with their eyes, I will have met my goal.

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