I never really used to have any kind of opinion about photographers as a whole. Yeah, I appreciate a good picture, even more so after slightly educating myself about the art of it all (shout out to photojournalism at Ole Miss). But I’ve grown to learn that it’s truly so much more than capturing a babe by the beach or the sunrise over your hometown. It’s a moment, captured in time, forever – in a world where forever seldom seems to exist anymore. It’s a way to bring joy into someone’s life, to give them purpose, to show them their soul’s beauty in a way they’ve long forgotten – or maybe never even knew.
Take someone who’s self conscious about x, y, or z. The reason for their insecurities is irrelevant, because the key focal point in their life is just the mere fact that the insecurities exist.
But let’s say this person has picked up a new hobby, has been practicing their craft, their current passion in life. Say it’s soccer, or yoga, or breakdancing. Maybe Crossfit, or cooking, or teaching themselves to play the guitar. They are, by their own standards, nowhere near the realm of ‘expert’ at this particular craft. Yet, they have been practicing – alone –until 3 in the morning, to get better.
Now enter a photographer.
Surely we’ve all seen the experiment done by a high school student who photographed the moment before and after people are told they are beautiful (if not, enjoy). Their faces before show little to no emotion, a harsh aura reflected in their eyes. They just seem hard, distant, untouchable. Then the ‘beautiful’ bomb is dropped, and their entire aura changes. They have a glow about them. They experience self-realization, you see satisfaction sweep across their face, pride suddenly emerges, right?
So, back to the photographer.
This photographer wants to capture moments of these individuals working on their newly acquired craft. They are, most likely, unwilling and shit the idea down almost immediately out of fear. Fear of embarrassment, fear of failure, fear or looking like anything less than perfection in this moment that’s to be forever captured in time. Luckily for them, a good photographer knows how to get someone out of their comfort zone in a relatively comfortable way. In this case, they do, and they convince these individuals to continue the act of practicing their hobby/skill/craft, without mind to the photographer in their normally solo space of living.
Now, why should you care about the documentation of people in their most tender of states? What could it possibly have to do with you or your life? Well…okay…the pictures have been taken, moments have been saved in the form of a j-peg forever, and immediately after the fact, these individuals are nearly drowning in their own vulnerability. Afraid of this failure they’ve created in their mind. Uncertain about whether what they’ve acquired as a “hobby” is even worth pursuing further. But then they sit down with said photographer to review their shots.
Stunning. Simplistic. Passionate. Heart-warming. Encouraging. Straight bad ass-ery.
Their eyes light up, and gratification takes over and pours out from their soul. A sense of disbelief becomes momentarily present, and then graciousness takes over.
“Oh my god. Wow. You’re amazing. These are amazing. Are you sure this is me? Do I have a stunt double…? Or maybe you’re just way too good at photoshop. Just…thank you.” A smile will, for the remainder of the day, take over their face. One that excuberates confidence, self respect, and resilience. And honestly, it’s one of the most beautiful things to see in someone. It shows drive, determination, a sense of purpose, ambition. These are qualities that each of us possess, but can be easy to lose sight of periodically in life.
This is why photographers are important. This is why art, in any form, is so crucial to our lives. It reminds us we are flawed, but we are united within our flawed selves. That with passion and dedication comes self-love, the most important form of love one can possess. When we lose sight of these traits – and this form of love – that’s where a photographer’s job begins: to remind us of the fire behind the imperfections. To show us the drive we forget exists in us all. To allow our tough exteriors to fall to the ground, and let our passions become the driving force back to that love we so need to survive. The one that comes from within. The love of yourself.