Mastering a place

#shelterinplace is getting old, isn’t it? As a photographer, it sure could cramp my style. Yet it need not mean I am stuck. In fact, being limited to a small footprint and unable to visit the many places that attract my wife and I as photographers can serve as a framework for improvement. 

I admit that the anxiety of this season of #COVID19 makes personal growth difficult. But I have always found one effective remedy for anxiety is getting outside on photowalks. And instead of hopping in the car or riding the train to the city, we are kept in the bounds of our local community–at a safe distance from others! 

At first I was struggling with the same subject matter, over and over. I mean, even if we walk for a few miles in different directions, the fact is that we pretty much know the area. Or do we? As a photographer, cultivating curiosity and new perspectives are essential qualities. 

So I am trying to master a place. Specifically, our little Chicago suburb of Cary. The Main Street is nice, though it is a single street with few other roads that aren’t residential. It’s a one-horse town, so-to-speak. Therefore, I must ask myself: do I know this town? Even the single Main Street view can have variations of light, activity, weather, and so on. Perhaps the life in lockdown is a gift–a way to overcome obstacles of the mundane and familiar–and capture the life of a place. Perhaps. We will see.

Philosophy of my photography: lifelong growth—not instant gratification

“Everyone is a photographer.” That sentiment has created some controversy in the photography community (check out this site for instance). It is sometimes argued that it dilutes the notion of photography as a professional field and/or a true art form.

Balderdash! Everyone’s an automobile driver, but that does not negate the need for professional drivers. There remains a need for taxi drivers (even with the upstart initiatives like Uber). Taxis are like some types of working photographers. For instance, consider department store portrait photographers that just get the job done expeditiously. Say cheese!

Sometimes there is an occasion for a stretch limousine: greater luxury and comfort in a party atmosphere. It’s still taking people from point A to point B, but doing it in style. Building on the analogy, there are many serious portrait photographers out there that have great people skills along with their photography prowess.

Then there are race car drivers. They compete with special skills for the adulation of admirers and the windfall that comes from winning a race. It is an advanced skill with specially designed cars to do the job.

Is everyone a photographer in that sense? Of course not. The barrier to entry is substantial, just like a race car driver: years of training, earning sponsors, not to mention the cost of acquiring all the proper equipment.

The issue is that technology has accelerated ease of use and reduced the cost to getting near professional gear—even smartphones have put advanced photography into the hands of millions. Everyone is a photographer…

…which means anyone wishing to enter the competitive world of working photographers had best find their niche…and actually work hard to attain real skills. A photographer in that frame of mind is devoted to personal as well as professional growth.

That is precisely my goal.

My photography is a journey. My approach is to be a lifelong learner—to constantly apprentice myself through active experimentation, reflection, and improvement. So this entire website is not a finished product, polished and just waiting for “customers”. It is a platform for growth. Mine—and hopefully yours, too.

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