Are We Photographers or Collectors?

It’s funny the random thoughts that you come up with when you start thinking of blog posts to write. That’s kind of how this one started. When I was home a couple weeks ago for the holidays I grabbed a bunch of boxes from storage. Mostly nature books from my collection that I was unable to take with me to college. Along with those things were a couple other boxes of nicknacks and objects I collected from my travels. This past week I finally was able to unpack everything and it got me thinking. When I was a kid and my folks would take my brother and myself traveling we would always end up getting some form of souvenir and after a while collections started to appear. Everything from pocket knives to flashlights, coins, and wooden sculptures, and in my case even a bone collection. I started thinking about all those things that I have collected over the years and what they mean and then I started thinking about photography.


As every photographer grows their library of photos they are in part collecting photos as well as stories. Every time we pick up that camera, no matter what the chase is, we are going out after something that either isn’t in the files yet or trying to improve on what’s already there. Sure this is always a cost for going out, the time alone is a gamble that whatever you’re after is going to be there, but if it’s that missing piece, the Babe Ruth card to your collection than isn’t it worth it? Who’s to say what the most valuable piece is or where it might come from?


There is an old saying in photography that you can’t capture every photo because every second of every day something is happening that you are missing. It’s the one reality that really stinks but is unavoidable. With that in mind what’s the best subject to go after? A year ago at the Chino Airshow they were doing a solute to the P-38 lightning by having five of the seven flying examples of the aircraft at the show. It was only a 2 day event but it was great to see such a beautiful aircraft together with its squadron mates. It was a long haul down to California for such a short event but was it worth it? You bet ya. It’s one of my favorite planes and you can’t put a price on that.


As I’m starting to discover it becomes harder and harder to stay a specific type of photographer. Even if one’s passion is wildlife, or planes or people or cars or whatever else is out there, which is a lot, in the end we all become generalist photographers because we all have to keep pushing ourselves to try new things. Out of those new areas comes the knowledge of how to do a better job and that knowledge can then be used to fuel your passion. But in that process aren’t you starting a new collection to complete?


You always have to remember the people that are involved in this world. The best access and knowledge comes from those peoples lives, most of whom are willing to share their experiences. Strictly speaking I am not a people photographer, it has never fascinated me to be one. But overcoming that reality has made numerous friendships and although my people portraits may not be that moving, talking with them has been wonderful. It is those friendships that can make a huge difference in whether a photographer succeeds or fails.


In the end no matter what your passion is, or how many images you collect, every photographer will end up with their own set of stories. Some of those images will be worth nothing to anyone else but you while hopefully others will be worth more to the world than anything else. Keeping that visual record going is not only important but essential for future generations. That’s why we must push to get more people involved in photography so that everyone can make their own collections.

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