Why I Am A Photographer

I think I ask myself that question every morning.

I’m not sure if I really have a good answer. A lot of times I hardly consider myself a photographer. More like an artist or poet who likes goofing around with a camera.

However, I do recognize that my history with photography is a bit unique in comparison to other art. I studied piano because I wanted to be like my sister. I played percussion instruments because I couldn’t play trumpet. I started writing because some friends were into it. I played guitar because it was the cool thing to do. I sketched because my sister did. I painted a little because Bob Ross made it look easy. But photography…though I learned the basics from my dad when I was in high school, I didn’t become interested in it just because my dad was. It wasn’t an effort to be like him. He was hardly into it when I first started. I just thought photography was magical. You turn some dials, push a button, mix the film with some chemicals for a certain amount of time…and somehow you end up with pictures.

From the About page on this blog:

I went off to college and studied poetry. Photography took a back seat. I didn’t realize it at the time, but images were still the driving force behind what I did. Whether my writing was non-linear or more traditionally narrative, images always guided my mind and my language. When I got back into photography, during grad school, I discovered that my exposure to poetry and the other arts solidified my aesthetic choices when composing through a viewfinder.

I still remember this one moment when I told a friend about getting back into photography. I remember her saying, “Well, it’s about time!” I was a bit surprised by her response. (Hope you’re doing well out there Erica!) It made me think a lot about the role photography played in my life.

What does all of this mean to me? It seems to me that there’s something about how I view reality that fits well with photography. The way that my memory works, how I tell stories, how my brain tries to express things…it all tends to be visual. And though there are times when it seems that moving images would be better, most of the time my brain works best with montages of detailed snapshots.

So, why photography?

It’s got something to do with my brain.

Answers to the more complicated second and third questions to come. I’m working on them!

In the meantime, a poem I thought about while writing this post.

Why I Am Not a Painter

by Frank O’Hara.

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,
for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
“Sit down and have a drink” he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. “You have SARDINES in it.”
“Yes, it needed something there.”
“Oh.” I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. “Where’s SARDINES?”
All that’s left is just
letters, “It was too much,” Mike says.
But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.

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