‘You don’t make a photograph just with a camera.
You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen,
the books you have read,the music you have heard,
the people you have loved’ – Ansel Adams
Since really getting into photography and starting to drop my interest in it into casual conversation with someone, the question ‘what sort of photographer are you’ always seems to crop up. So much so that my answer has almost become second nature; telling them that I don’t know, whilst wearing a wry smile. Why? Because in return I get to see their faces wearing a look of utter bemusement.
I don’t say this in jest though. I honestly don’t know what sort of photographer I am – it’s a hard question to answer. Any question asking you to define your role in a sub-section of the arts is difficult usually you end up giving a word-y statement filled with technical jargon. Why? Personally it is because I don’t want my creative role to be thrown “under the bus” of a general statement. After all, what I do – or attempt to do – ends up being an extension of myself due to how much I end up investing in it both emotionally and personally.
‘A photograph shouldn’t be just a picture, it should be a philosophy’ – Amit Kalantri
Take, for example, when I studied Drama and Theatre Studies at Bath Spa University. I was often being asked whether or not I considered myself to be an actor, my answer was no. This was because even though I did “act” – not just pretend to be a tree or roll around on the floor like some people think – I rather disliked being defined to the generalisation suggested by the role of “an actor”. I would then follow up my answer of no something along the lines of: ‘I like to think of myself as an actor/director that specialises in a variation of verbatim theatre whilst also holding an interest in experimental theatre, specifically the presentation and manipulation of performance art.
As I mentioned previously, this is word-y and full of technical jargon. However it is, in my opinion, the perfect definition of my relationship with drama. That single description carefully sums up the culmination of my time and development.
It’s for that very same reason that “I don’t know” is the ideal answer to when people ask what sort of photographer I am. I haven’t developed a certain style, nor have I specialised in anything. Yet, I don’t want to be included under the general moniker of photographer.
‘To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality.
It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image
becomes a great physical and intellectual joy’ – Henri Cartier Bresson
Despite this, I know what sort of photographer I want to be; I want to be a photographer that tells stories through his work. I want to bring my theatrical background into my photography, combining the two to create visual stories that contain elements of verbatim, while also being able to present them to an audience as a variation of performance art.
I have already begun experimenting with this as evidenced in my previously published PhotoSeries – 1 (pt.1 & pt.2), 2 and 3 – on my photography page, although it is most obvious in PhotoSeries pt.1 & pt.2. It’s something that I’ll further develop with my project “The Girl That Never Was”, which is more detailed and developed than anything I have done before.
‘Art is what we call…the thing an artist does.
It’s not the medium or the oil or the price or whether it hangs on a wall or you eat it. What matters, what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something risky. Something human.
Art is not in the …eye of the beholder. It’s in the soul of the artist’
– Seth Godin
If I can keep refining this style that I am beginning to work on, keep up the creativity, and continue developing it to the extent where I feel comfortable and confident enough to answer the question “what sort of photographer are you” with “one that tells stories”, then I will be happy.
In the meantime I’ll just keep watching the look of bemusement creep over people’s faces when I answer them with a simple “I don’t know”.