In a recent post (What are you trying to achieve?), I wrote about some of the reasons I take photographs. In my Instagram (@hueyraw) stories I had also asked why you take photographs and this post captures your responses and builds on my thoughts.
As I expected, the therapeutic nature of taking photographs for pleasure registered highly. For most people, in this age of photographic democratisation, with almost everyone having a camera via their phone, photography is not a means of making money and is secondary to the day job. Many of you, like @sleepingastronaut, see it as away to relax; something that takes your mind off work (@mybeardandmypenguin, @chris_silk_street). It’s an escape – something which should not be underestimated in this busy world. As @zenostr33t, puts it “…ultimately it comes down to escaping work day pace.”
That therapeutic effect is reason enough to get out and make photos. For some of you, it is clearly more than that. Fabienne (@fabiennehanotaux) recognised “…a deep need to create, to express myself, to escape.”
I think this need to create is deeply human. Furthermore, the artistic element of creation which enables us to express ourselves, our emotions and our feelings in response to the world around us, is enjoyable, communicative and, therefore, sociable. This is underlined by the huge success of social media, such as Instagram, where photographers can now share their work, and enjoy the work of others instantly, and like never before.
This creative process changes us. I know that since I have been taking photos I have become far more alert to my surroundings, spotting things I would never have noticed previously. This is enriching. As @atelier_dope puts it, the “… process of creation is enjoyable and every now and then I’m rewarded with an image I enjoy.”
Many of you commented on how this enables you to see things in a new way and to seek to make the mundane beautiful (@sixframestreet; @piyush_mishtra_18; @theweijian). That is certainly at the heart of street photography and involves self-expression. No one photographer sees a photographic opportunity in exactly the same way as the photographer standing beside them. The slight difference in viewpoint is one thing, but the personal experiences that each of us as individuals bring to bear, our likes, dislikes and individual taste, all impact upon the final image created.
Perhaps the more scientific among us only seek to record daily life, something more like an objective view of a crime scene or scientific evidence. The camera has a unique ability to take a slice of life, a fraction of a second, and freeze it forever to be scrutinised and analysed for as long as the image exists. @frances_pegg wrote about catching a personal moment in order to “taste it when I get old.”
Recording daily life for oneself is the personal version of storytelling, which is usually more about the lives of others. For some of you, it was this that was your motivation. @mrtimothypeter put it simply when he explained “I love telling interesting stories.” As humans, most of us find other people fascinating to a greater or lesser extent. I have always enjoyed looking back at photographs of places I know and seeing how they have changed but this experience is far better when there are people in the shot. If we recognise them it is heightened because we can see how time has changed them. If we don’t, then we can also pick up on the visual clues in the changes of fashion, of the street furniture, shops, styles of cars (or lack of) and so on. @sixframestreet speaks of documenting the human experience and this is an important element of street photography which is not necessarily about aesthetics and creating something of beauty but is about building a record which will inform the future. Many pictures improve with age – an ordinary scene today will take on many other qualities in years to come. If you don’t believe me, think about a typical High Street today with a huge number of people lost in mobile phone land. Will those phones still exist in half a century? If they do, will they really look like they look today? What about the clothes? And for the acid test, find a photo of an everyday, ordinary street scene from 1969 and see how nostalgic it feels.
Some of you recognised something powerful about the actual process of making photographs. Specifically thinking about street photography, @ashsmithone cited “…the thrill of the chase.” And I totally get that. The adrenalin rush of going out to shoot and not knowing what you will get, what lies around the next corner and what may happen next is exhilarating – if not for everyone. It is a thrill and there is a fear to it; fear of being caught, fear of not getting the shot even. That brings adrenalin.
The thrill, the adrenalin and even the fear very quickly lead to what @gianpy_s described when he said “It’s a passion.” That is certainly something many of us would agree with. Why else would we spend hours walking our shoes down to nothing, only to come back with a small handful of decent shots - if we’re lucky?
A passion can become a necessity and for @mark_lev-photo it seems to be a compulsion: “I don’t know why! I just feel compelled to do it.” Whereas @ke_vin_joseph says “The voice in my head tells me to.” For @mandym.photos it is “Just something I can never switch off from – which is mostly a joyful thing.”
Whether it is something you have to do to balance up your life with the part of you that is work; whether it’s something you just need to feel complete creatively; whether it’s a voice in your head making you do it; photography clearly plays an important part in making each of you “you”. That has to be a good thing. I certainly feel that it completes me. And there are far worse things you could be doing in your spare time.
I leave the final comments to @oohbaaanana who says: “It’s the only thing I think about all day and it’s the only thing in life in which I’m really free.”
A huge thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts with me but especially to these good people who you should check out on Instagram: