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Why am I shooting this?
Ben Burgeson, Student/Intern, Photographer
Vista | CA | USA | Posted: 3:45 PM on 09.21.06
->> You have to systematically create confusion, it sets creativity free. Everything that is contradictory creates life.- salvador dali

it's been burning in me for a while that there is some kind of movement we are a part of. this world of mass produced imagery is deafening. I have seen about a million pieces in recent past that would in Dali's time be considered masterpieces. I call this time the flood. Everyone seems to be drowning in the monotony of amazing images. How is it that one rises above this to become more?
I think it is incumbent upon us to be concrete in our photographic philosophy. I think we must speak with every image to what it is we see out there on a day to day basis. Our images are like one night stands. Quick to grab the eye, and quicker to be a loss of interest. We must find our betrothed in photography. The one thought process that will inevitably create a representation of our thought, and stick to it.
This is where I find that our past haunts us. There was a time where we shot from the most visceral level. Where the best picture we could take was in our house. We knew that it may or may not warrant a comment by our photo 100 teacher, but we knew that it spoke to something. Even if it was as simple as the light falling into the room. Many teachers say to many students that if you have good basics you can succeed in anything. I'm not proposing that we stop shooting day to day assignments that our editors give us, but maybe it would benefit the art and craft of photography to actually say something consistent with our images. My best teacher asked," why am I shooting this?". Dali had his methods, What is your answer? What are your thoughts?

some kid
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Chuck Steenburgh, Photographer
Lexington | VA | USA | Posted: 7:50 PM on 09.21.06
->> Too deep for me!
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Lucas Jackson, Photographer
New York | NY | USA | Posted: 8:07 PM on 09.21.06
->> Twinkies and Ding Dongs, that's all I could think about while reading that. I hope that helps.
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Jean Finley, Photographer, Photo Editor
Iowa City | IA | USA | Posted: 8:21 PM on 09.21.06
->> When your "philosophy" is concrete and you're "sticking to" one thing/idea/thought ---- then it's time to quit.
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Gary Cosby, Jr, Photographer
Decatur | AL | USA | Posted: 9:18 PM on 09.21.06
->> The real simple answer is you are working in an industry and they expect results. If you want to get paid you go shoot what the editors tell you and then come back with an image the editors didn't expect. That is what going to work everyday is all about. Then, when you have some free time, you go explore the world on your terms and bring that back too and see if you can get it published.

I don't want to be mean Ben, but I would love for you to try that philosophy out on my photo editor. He is not real big on philosophical arguements.
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G.J. McCarthy, Photographer
Columbia | MO | USA | Posted: 9:35 PM on 09.21.06
->> Hey Ben:

I've not wanted to post anything in a while, but this caught my attention. It took a minute (a lot of re-reading and consultation of my Rosetta Stone), but I think I get your question/points.

Even on the individual level, finding your own voice -- photographically -- is a pretty challenging (and long) process; not to mention, it's also terribly subjective as we're all on myriad levels of experience, skill sets, goals, etc. You seem to paint a broad brush stroke here, and I think it's only serving to confound you further.

Yes, a lot of the work out there is similar. You could argue that there's a lot of good work being done, but a lot of it pretty analogous. There's even less "great" work -- striking its own visual path. I admire your desire to not only further yourself photographically, but to wish the same industry wide.

But here's the thing ... I kind of feel like you're "thinking" about this too much. I might be wrong, but I feel like true vision happens on its own, to a degree -- it takes patience, determination and time (not to mention an open mind). Cognitively, though, you can mire yourself down; it's like anything else -- it comes from the gut ... the heart.

Hope this is making sense. Perhaps I misunderstood your questions altogether. To put it simply, though I think it's great you're thinking on a big (BIG!) level, spend a little more time worrying about Ben for a while. Spend time shaping Ben's vision. Listen to Ben's heart and learn to make images that only Ben could make. Help out other Ben's along the way. Make Ben lead by example.

It's Ben Karma (Barma?) ... go with it.


- some g -
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David Brooks, Photographer
San Diego | CA | USA | Posted: 10:01 PM on 09.21.06
->> I remember my first frame I ever made from my first roll of bulk rolled tri-x 400 from my b/w class in high was magic...but that fades along with that first print that is now experiencing silvering and a browninsh discoloration from poor fixing...I feel similar to you in that I want to make a meaningful picture but I don't put that much weight on the frames I make. Certainly, I strive to be a better photographer but I simply press the shutter, yes I compose, make adjustments, look for a unique angle...but there's no philosophy...If it is a good picture it should be apparent. Most of us will never cover the subjects of Dali or Nachtwey or even Bartoletti, and in no way am I minimizing what we do for not covering similar subjects, but at the same time there is no need to weigh yourself down trying to convey a vision when all your editor wants is the bartender of the month. In so many ways the subject is going to dictate when to turn-on that philosophy as long as it doesn't paralize you in meditation.

When your covering a story that is self-inspired for which you have more than a day to turn it around...real time to develop your vision and a story that begs for more attention, then polish your philosophy and let it sing in your pictures.

Why am I shooting this?...because I am curious about the people around me and I love seeing my name in print.
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Ben Burgeson, Student/Intern, Photographer
Vista | CA | USA | Posted: 1:00 AM on 09.22.06
->> I’ll never quit.

I know after working side by side with the sports and advertising’s best that photographers are more than the assignments they are given. They seem to be what they produce. I truly feel like GJ spoke to what I truly feel every time I walk out the door to shoot.
I know from working with editors from Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, etc. that they expect a certain thing from us. However, there are few that are hired to see for themselves, and aren’t told to how to see. My goal is to work for people who will hire me for how I shoot, and hire you for how you shoot, because in that I believe is the only way we can separate ourselves from the difference between the covers of all the really, really similar magazines in the bookstores. I really appreciate your thoughts…really.

Some kid
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Melissa Lyttle, Photographer
Tampa | FL | USA | Posted: 1:35 AM on 09.22.06
->> ben-

your comments strike home. lately to me, i've noticed that everything good seems very similar, like there's this style emerging and everyone's doing it. and everything bad just seems like crap, like people aren't thinking, aren't understanding their subjects, aren't living in the moment. myself included, on both fronts.

i recently read a great interview with magnum nominee alec soth, and in talking about the difference between editorial work and documentary work (aka work he does for a client, and work he does for himself) he said:

"I am able to make the switch pretty easily, but they are indeed two entirely different ways of working. A huge part of my personal work is finding my subject. This involves daydreaming, wandering, editing and takes forever. The process is introspective and I always work alone. With editorial photography the subject is handed to me on a platter. The editor usually tells me to go take a picture of 'x'. A lot of the art is stripped out of the process. The only thing that is left is the technical job of making a great picture. "

(that whole interview is here if you're intersted: )

and somehow that makes sense to me, and somehow i relate that to what you're musing on over there. ultimately you have to answer to no one but yourself. as you're starting out, make pictures you're happy with, even if you're making them on your own time, or on the side of those big editorial projects/newspaper assignments/whatever. it's those pictures that will define you and your style. it's those pictures that will make you happy and fulfilled.

best of luck, and thanks for one of the most thought-provking threads on here in a long, long time.

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Mark Davis, Student/Intern, Photographer
Santiago | CH | Chile | Posted: 7:16 AM on 09.22.06
->> Interesting thread.
Ive pondered a lot concerning this. A few thoughts:

The art world has many parallels to the music world. I think there is a lot of amazing, eye catching imagery out there. I would compare this to a great pop song. It captures you, addicts you for a day, and then quickly fades. You could call it a touch superficial, because on the surface it appears to be life changing, but in fact there is little substance.
An essential quality of truly great art is its ability to withstand the test of time. Many images, though eye catching, innovative, catchy, whatever....are forgotten. And I think that it really ties in to what Alec Soth said. When youre told to shoot a picture of "x" a lot of art is stripped out of the process. For art to withstand the test of time it requires everything of the artist. The viewer has to know that you truly believe in your vision. Commercial art, though created by artists passionate about what they do, has little chance of being revolutionary, because there is usually a product involved, and perhaps comes across as less sincere than your personal work.
Though I think I understand what Jean meant, I would respectfully disagree with him. A consistent vision is essential to great art. It´s always a disappointment to me when i see a brilliant image, go to the artists website, and there is nothing similar to the image I saw. It makes me question whether that is really what the artist wanted to capture, or if was just a¨"lucky shot¨. Conversly, if you see a beautiful image that is followed up by a plethora of others shot with the same vision, it gives the artist credibility and sincerity.
One last thought that i might put on the table is this: the value in art is not the final image, but rather who you become in the process. And further, who you inspire and serve.
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Rick Rickman, Photographer
Laguna Niguel | CA | USA | Posted: 9:44 AM on 09.22.06
->> Ben:

I love the fact that first, you've asked the question and second you've challenged this forum for answers to that question.

There is so much banal chatter here on this site most of the time that it's deafening. This is the first time in many many months that, I read with interest, an idea that was designed to make someone actually think about what it is they are doing.

Introspection is a tough process! Reaching into the ethos for meaning is challenging. Going beyond the base mechanical process of producing an image and finding ways to make that image speak to someone on a visceral or emotional level, which opens the door to real understanding and communications, is what's the most ellusive and challenging of processes.

Continually asking yourself the questions you've asked here will help focus on that end. As you can see from the responses, most people won't get it. Worse yet, the vast majority won't even care about delving into thinking about the beauty of the concept.

This, in real terms, is the difference between settling for mediocraty and striving to elevate one's efforts out of that all encompassing, over populated condition. Thanks for making us think a little!
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Lyle Aspinall, Photographer
St. Albert | AB | Canada | Posted: 10:54 AM on 09.22.06
->> First of all, wow. Thanks a ton, Ben, for initiating genuine dialogue. This world could use more people like you.

Second, I've had these thoughts for a while, too. I often fail to see originality in many of the best photos from our current day, and even when I do, they rarely stay in my memory for much longer than a few days or weeks.

To be brief, the main thing I've learned in my short career is that I have to be true to myself. For me, that means conveying truth through images that capture parts of the human drama. Sure, I try to make unique photos out of mundane assignments, but whenever possible, I also try to ensure my photos have some genuine human soul and spirit. When I'm able to do that, I'm happy with myself, and that's all I can ask for, regardless of whether or not other people agree.

Put another way: I really admire the work of Dave LaBelle, the author the Great Picture Hunt. I had the privilege of hearing him speak recently, and he noted that while viewing student portfolios that day, he saw a lot of good photos, but most of them were full of 'corpses'. He wasn't talking about actual dead bodies. He meant that when even the strongest photos fail to convey genuine and heartfelt moments of the human soul, they lack something.

I determined then and there to refocus my photographic thinking. It's easier said than done, but when I feel like I've captured genuine humanity and not just another 'corpse', I'm a happy man, and it doesn't matter if others agree.

For what it's worth...
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Thomas Boyd, Photographer
Eugene | OR | USA | Posted: 12:30 PM on 09.22.06
->> I think we all struggle with this idea that when we shoot something ordinary we are expected to somehow make it interesting through sheer force of will.

We feel like we should compose it in at a way that makes it look cool. We throw foregrounds out of focus, we tilt the camera, we drag the flash, we open our apertures, we pan blur, we slow the shutter and shake the camera. We set up lights and gel the background. Sometimes we do none of that just to be different. We think of ourselves as ARTISTS.

This is all perfectly fine, but what we need to do is put more energy into story-telling. It's the story that sets our work apart. Most of the time, great photographs are not the result of a great photographer doing fancy things with their camera, but the result of a great story.

Here's the key: Great photographers find great stories. They think of themselves as JOURNALISTS.

Then they do fancy things with thier cameras.
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Landon Finch, Photographer
Colorado Springs | CO | USA | Posted: 1:06 PM on 09.22.06
->> Thomas, well said. Although I respectfully disagree (for the most part) with your last line.

In this media-filled world, creating something extraordinary usually means you have to find yourself in an extraordinary situation (with a camera in hand and know how to use it).

However, when I think about the most powerful images I've seen in my life, its usually more about the moment/event than the technical aspects of how the image was made. This is not to say that some powerful images don't require a lot of technical ability.

I think you can use various techniques, such as those that Thomas mentions above, to make the mudane/ordinary more interesting to look at, but truely powerful/meaningful images, in my opinion, are usually more about the moment.

As an example, take a look at Todd Heisler's picture of the year for General Reporting. A very powerful image in my opinion, but technically its not all that extraordinary. Same with this image of Mr. Heisler Yes, he knows how to properly expose the scene, but more importantly, as Thomas points out, he tells the story very well through the images.

Check out these extremely powerful images: They are powerful/meaningful because of the moment, not so much because of the person behind the camera. Or think about all the 9/11 images that moved you, probably more about the moment than the photographer.

My 2.5 cents...
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Edmund Fountain, Photographer
Tampa | FL | United States | Posted: 1:19 PM on 09.22.06
->> Just when I start to think about ditching my membership, someone has to go and make a thought-provoking post. Thank you so much Ben for thowing this out there.

One of my photographic idols is a someone named Christopher Morris. I have been blessed with the opportunity to hear him speak a few times and on one of those occasions he threw this out there:

“Use every assignment as a ‘grant,’ take advantage of every moment with your subject and put all of your energy into it.”

He then went on to talk about how he is expected to deliver a certain "product" to the publications he works for, but that the "product" is only a small part of what he shoots. I remember him saying about 20% of what he shoots on assignment is for satisfying the magazines, the other 80% is to satisfy himself.

There is nothing that says when you go shoot an assignment you cannot have it both ways. You absolutely can, and you should, because it is the only way you will grow and it is the only way you will be happy with yourself.

As far as everything looking the same, the "flood," I think that our generation of photojournalists in particular has taken a certain type of photography that was dynamic 10-15 years ago and made it into a cliché. We think we are being sophisticated with our wide-angle layered pictures with deep shadows and warm light because someone else was deemed sophisticated and intelligent by shooting that way. We aren't, we are clones of one another, interchangeable.

I think we would all do much better by just being ourselves, telling stories how we think they need to be told. Hopefully along the lines we will all find ourselves too.
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Ron Bernardo, Photographer
Hamilton | ON | Canada | Posted: 6:39 PM on 09.22.06
->> I enjoyed reading this particular thread, thank you guys.
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Jeremy Harmon, Photographer
Salt Lake City | UT | USA | Posted: 8:04 PM on 09.22.06
->> I like to think about photography like I think about pop music. Most pop music, like most photography, is interchangable. We live in an American Idol world. But every once in a while you get a band like The New York Dolls who come along and pretty much change everything. But they were one little band. One little voice and for all intents and purposes, a complete failure. They "stayed true" to their vision and that is why people remember them today, but it was also their undoing.

So that's the thing, how do you find a balance between your personal vision/philosophy and the stuff you need to do from day to day to pay the bills? I like to pretend that I am developing a shooting style, but it is something that will take me years to really master. In the meantime, I'm not going to beat myself up about the day to day monotony of daily newspaper work. This Monday one of us here at the Daily Herald has to go and take a photo of American Fork's new police dog. How thrilling. Unless that dog goes nuts and eats one of the cops, I can't imagine it being all that exciting. But we'll go and do it.

I like to think that at our paper we try to make working here better everyday. Better journalism, better assignments, better photography and overall just a better work environment. That's what you have to do. Make your contribution better everyday. Change what you can and don't sweat the small stuff.

All in all great thread (and I just turned to Mario and Ashley and used the phrase "gravy injection". That's how we'll get the dog to eat the cop.)
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Mark Smith, Photographer
Elk City | OK | USA | Posted: 4:14 AM on 09.23.06
->> I started to respond to this thread when it first started, but didn't...don't know why.

I do an awful lot of photography that just doesn't lend itself to a great deal of creativity. Then, I do portraiture and weddings, and I endeavour to inject newness and creativity into it.. but more than that I try to make it special by rejecting simple cleverness and use my skill to make meaningful photos for the subjects. Then, I spend time making photos that don't pay me a great deal, but that I put all of myself into.

The thought that hit me when I first read Ben's post was about Bruce Lee's Tao of Jeet Kune Do. Yeah, I know, he was a fighter and we're photographers, but the way he saw things was that art is art, either martial art or visual art, or any other kind of expression. His doctrine of "using no way as way" is what I find most interesting. He studied all sorts of martial arts, and practiced them all, just as we learn all sorts of technical abilities and knowledge. Those things become secondary, and for fullest expression, must do so. Perhaps, secondary is not completely correct, but they must become ingrained, beyond thought. Understanding light, composition, layers, depth, everything that we use, and making them part of ourselves, we can then free ourselves to make the truly incredible images that are meaningful. It is this that I think the best among us do. As Thomas Boyd said, the technical things are tools, but when they become natural to us, we can concentrate on telling stories, on using those thing innately and making the great images that inspire all of us.
Ultimately, making compelling, honest reflections of our world is what drives us all. I applaud Ben for elevating the conversation on this board with asking a simple, yet challenging question.
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Chris Ivin, Photographer
Sydney | NSW | Australia | Posted: 4:27 AM on 09.23.06
->> Ben,

You have certainly confused me, systematically or not, and I don't feel any more or less creative for it, so I will have to
respectfully disagree with Mr Dali and most of what you have said. I'm not even sure that 'everything that is contradictory creates life' but I will have to
think more on that one. I'm opening a nice bottle of red tonight so I might have some answers later. Certainly though, life if full of contradictions. Please take my wife.

You say you have seen 'about a million pieces in recent past that would in Dali's time be considered masterpieces'.
That, in my humble opinion is just a ridiculous thing to say. How do you profess to know what would be by general consensus
considered a masterpiece in Dali's (1904-89) or any other time. I find some of your statements presumptious, pompous and downright preposterous.

I don't feel part of any particular movement.
Sure, I take photographs but thats it. Yes, there's a lot of photography to be seen today ,but do I have a problem with it ? No.
Am I drowning in a monotony of amazing images ? No. If anything it inspires me. Banal images, well thats another thing.
Am I trying to 'rise above this and become more'. Not really, I'll be happy creating some amazing images myself.
Getting someone to buy them would be good too. Do I need to be 'concrete in my photographic
philosophy' ? I'll add that one to my to-do lists, I don't think it will be in the Top-10. I have certain standards, but I'm
not going to take myself that seriously.

I hope my contradictions have not confused you, and if they have then I hope it enhances your creativity.

For you interest Dali also said :- 'Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.'
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G.J. McCarthy, Photographer
Columbia | MO | USA | Posted: 7:02 AM on 09.23.06
->> Chris:

That it's good to have some different perspectives on this thread -- and, for lack of a better way to put it, a little dissent -- goes without saying, however I really think you missed the mark with your post.

I love your last stated Dali quote, but I think you're using it out of context; I've always interpreted his words, in this case, to mean that one who doesn't attain a certain mastery of "the basics" (call it what you will -- art history, fundamentals, all that's come before creatively) can never, ever strike new ground or push the envelope. Simply put, you have to know the rules before you can break them.

I'll concede that Ben's points are a little confusing, but there's nothing in them -- at least to me -- that are "presumptious (sic), pompous and downright preposterous." It's called a charge -- a challenge -- good sir, and whether or not you choose to buy into it, there's no reason to insult the kid; I think it only proper to at least pass a little respect his way for wanting more from the industry.

But hey, have it your way -- shoot the way you want, grow at your own pace and push yourself creatively to the heights you see fit; just don't begrudge the rest of us who expect more from ourselves and our brethren in this field (and by that I mean photojournalism and the craft of photography in general).

Ben ... I think Thomas, Miss M and some others have said it best -- do the finest job you can for your respective employer(s), but shoot for (and be true to) yourself, buddy. I know that's my mantra, and I'm hopeful that my employer backs me up in that sentiment. My current editor (and the lanky Kansan that hired me) doesn't (and didn't) keep me around just to be "another shooter" ... it's about bringing something extra to the table.

To everyone else (self included) -- go out there, challenge yourself, and make the best damn images you WANT to make. We all have different goals.

"Alright, then."

- g -
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Mike Carlson, Photographer
Bayonet Point | FL | USA | Posted: 7:29 AM on 09.23.06
->> I'll be honest, when I initially read the post the first thing that popped into my head was Jerry McGuire and "mission statement" v "memo"...

However, I'm looking forward to Sunday night when I can print this thread and share it with my Journalism class next week to stir up some conversation of our own.

Thanks for an intelligent and respectful discussion, even with the diverging views - a trend I wish more threads would follow.

(Sorry for the interruption)
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Chris Ivin, Photographer
Sydney | NSW | Australia | Posted: 8:53 PM on 09.23.06
->> I certainly don't begrudge anyone who expects more from themselves or their
profession. I apologise if I came across like that.

--gj-- I agree with everything you said in your first reply to Ben, particulary that
one can think too much about this !

If Ben had simply been clearer in his argument and presentation I would not have taken
issue. But to wrap it up in a 'philosophy in 25 words or less', to lecture the
reader and to presume to know what would have been considered
masterpieces in any past time, and to try and legitimise his argument by quoting Dali,
is simply waving a red rag to a bull.

My quote of Dali was an ironic inclusion. Any notable persons quote
could have been used to create an impression in the mind of the reader.
But it doesn't make any of Bens or my ramblings clearer or weightier.
You prove my point by putting an interpretation on the Dali's quote
which I hadn't intended and it's only conjecture as to what Dali himself meant.

Happy shooting :-)
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Thomas Boyd, Photographer
Eugene | OR | USA | Posted: 1:44 AM on 09.24.06
->> One thing is for sure. The level of photography out there is absolutely incredible. I'm talking about all kinds of photography. The fashion shooters are doing things beyond where my imagination can take me. I've been looking at a lot of wedding photography lately and I'm absolutely blown a way at some of work I see. It's morphed into a cross between documentary photojournalism, art and fashion. You need only to lurk around this site to some of the finest sports photography ever produced. Celebrity photographers are now doing something more along the lines of cinematic direction.

I've seen two stories in photojournalism that have made me realize how far it can be taken. I don't think there has ever been anything ever shot with the depth and intelligence as these two stories since Eugene Smith's Pittsburg essay.

One is Todd Heisler's story mentioned above. The other is Kingsley's Crossing by Olivier Jobard seen here:

Perhaps, right now, we are seeing the golden age of still photography. The absolute peak of the medium before it evolves into something else involving still, video, and audio storytelling.

On one hand, it's encouraging and inspirational to see the very upper limit of where this photojournalism thing can be taken. On the other hand, it's a little depressing to realize what kind of sacrifice and circumstance it takes to pull it off.

In the end, we just have to keep working hard to find stories worth telling with pictures.
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Gary Cosby, Jr, Photographer
Decatur | AL | USA | Posted: 3:32 PM on 09.24.06
->> Ben
When I first read your post my reaction was that you needed to get out of school and start earning a living. That has a tendency to change you, not always for the better. I went to my image files and realized that I had shot several fairly odious assignments lately including ground breakings and ribbon cuttings. I love sports, but the prep sports rotation never stops, it just takes a couple months off in the summer. So I did an update with the photos I shot from just the past couple of weeks. All the assignments were shot to earn a paycheck but I tried to make myself happy too. There isn't much you can do to make yourself happy at a ribbon cutting but I tried anyway.

Just a little background for you. I am married and my wife and I have seven children. Philosophy takes a back seat to practicality pretty much all the time but we were discussing your thread and talking about my dislike for the mundane things of my photojournalism life. As we talked, I told her that, while I really dislike things like ribbon cuttings and ground breakings-they are pretty much meaningless to me-they may represent the pinnacle of someone else's life. That means that if it is important enough to put in the paper, I really need to do a great job, to push myself to move beyond the built in mediocrity of the event to find something that will visually communicate the importance of that day.

Maybe this doesn't help you any. Maybe it will someday when you are out earning a living with your talents. Maybe someday when I am feeling bogged down in a 'routine' assignment I'll remember this thread and push through the mediocrity of the moment to find something special. I really hope you do well and never forget what others have said better but be true to who you are. That is the gift that God has given you to give to others.

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Ben Burgeson, Student/Intern, Photographer
Vista | CA | USA | Posted: 1:07 AM on 09.28.06
->> I just wanted to thank everyone for posting. This has really been a thought provoking set of responses, and has lead to many conversations in my week. thank you again, and if anyone has anymore thoughts please feel free... everyone can learn from everyone!

some kid
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Mark Smith, Photographer
Elk City | OK | USA | Posted: 1:27 AM on 09.28.06
->> Nice thread, my brother.
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Michael Myers, Photographer, Student/Intern
Miami Beach | FL | USA | Posted: 12:23 PM on 09.28.06
->> I think it's important to do both. If you go to an event and come back with a full folder of great, artistic, and emotional photographs, but don't have the plain dull images that simply showed what happened, it's not enough; some people will be disappointed.

There are (it seems to me) two requirements. The first is to simply produce images that show what was going on, nothing fancy, but something that just shows the event the way the average person would see it. Then you can put lots of effort into "creative" photos.

I've got a problem. I mostly do the same kind of "work" every time, going to a race, shooting the track, the cars, the people involved, and the winners. If I don't get all of that, I'll hear back from people asking why I didn't. During the event, I also take quite a bit of time to "play", trying different stuff. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't, but for me it's enjoyable to try... and once in a while I get images that I'm real pleased with, even years later.

Another thing - I go look at images posted here, and many of them are really, REALLY impressive! Seeing what others have done inspires me to try even harder at my own efforts, and I often get ideas from what I see here - just different ways of "seeing" something.
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Max Whittaker, Photographer
Sacramento | CA | USA | Posted: 1:45 PM on 09.28.06
->> Ben, thanks for starting the best thread in months on SS.

A few thoughts I have...

As Thomas said, the quality of work out there is mind-boggling. As a generation of photographers raised on the visual image (MTV, movies, video games) matures, the art of photojournalism is reaching a new level.

On personal vision vs. work... I think we tend to doubt ourselves too much. We can accept that our market is flooded with photographers, for staff positions, or freelance assignments. This means that when you get that staff job or that freelance assignment, that editor wants you to do the job YOUR way. They picked you over the dozens or hundreds of other candidates because they want you to bring back your personal vision of that story. You're not just a warm body that can operate a camera.

There are always concerns/constraints with any assignment/publication, but within those...tell the story the way you see it.

On style/philosophy... For me, this is an issue of balance (as Mark touched on earlier). If you go out looking to create or foster a certain style, it's not going to happen. You'll come back with something overdone and forced. Remember when you were first beginning as a photographer, and the first time using the camera became instinctual? When you focussed and made exposure adjustments instinctually, without thinking about what your hands were doing? That's what, on a certain level, one needs to get to in crafting an image. I'm not talking about shutting your brain off and going into autopilot, just not overthinking a situation. Find a balance between you instinctively gravitating to the best composition, lighting, and (most importantly) moment; and your cognitive thought processes regarding the essential question: What is the story here? What's the best way to tell it?

Anyway, that's the way I tend to think about it....
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Thread Title: Why am I shooting this?
Thread Started By: Ben Burgeson
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