Last March marked two years since I bought my camera, Frankie, from my friend Mike. It had been a sort of graduation gift from my parents, but because I was starting to earn by then from my various rakets, I wanted to partly pay for it. It was a small portion, but it felt good to be able to say that a little bit of the money came from my hard work.
I’ve been looking at the stuff that I’ve shot in the past two years. The thing is, the only formal training I’ve had, save for the workshop that I just finished, was a very basic class that I took in 2007. Taking that into consideration, I’m actually quite proud of how much, albeit slow-moving, progress I’ve made in the past two years.
I remember that class so clearly, though. It was Basic Photography with Pancho Escaler. The thing with sir Escaler was he wanted to instill in us, early on, the philosophies of photography. I remember our first class, he spent the entire three hours grilling each and every one of us: Who are you? Why are you here? It drove us all crazy, but it lay down the foundation for the class’ tone for the entire semester: we weren’t there to just learn how to become photographers, but also why we wanted to be so. It’s a question I lose track of every now and then, but one I try to answer with everything I shoot nonetheless. A question that, I think, a lot of budding photographers today would do good in answering.
A few photos from Frankie’s first few months
The thing is, when I go back to asking myself that question, I still go back to the same old answers. I have three: to capture beauty, to make that which is not always considered beautiful into something else, and as a means of opening up the world people. Anyone who has cracked open a National Geographic magazine can tell you just how much a single stunning photograph can speak to you. Anyone who has seen and learned about this photo or this photo or this photo can tell you that a single snap of the camera can not only get people talking, but can affect lives in a very real way. Now I’m not saying that the only way for a photographer’s work to matter is for them to go and cover starving African children, no. I’m not removing the value of other kinds of photography aside from photojournalism, hell, I spent the first three years of my “career” as a gig photographer. But it does make you think about the substance of your work and why you’re doing what it is you’re doing.
I don’t remember who, but a friend once posted this question, and it really stuck to me: now that everyone can do what you do, how you do rise above the clutter?
A couple of days ago, I had the last session of the aforementioned workshop with Daemon Becker. One of the things that really stuck with me from his last few words to the class was something I had written down not that long ago in my grad school letter of intent: photography is a learned craft. We spend time, money, and effort to be able to build up experience and talent. But you see, that’s one of the things that I hate about how the industry is turning out. Being learned doesn’t really take that much of a priority anymore. Admit it, this sounds all too familiar.
See, that’s how I want to rise above the clutter. In a world where owning a DLSR makes you a photographer, I want to be different because I’ve made it a point to be a learned photographer. Maybe it’s not going to be a fancy grad school in New York, maybe it’s going to be as slow as my progress for the past two years. But you know what? As long as I make it a point to always ask myself why I’m taking the photographs that I’m taking, and I pour every inch of myself in everything that I shoot, then I think I’m going to be just fine.