Thursday, 2 October 2014

Why I take photos.

Recently my boss asked me why I wanted to be a photographer. And I guess I didn't really have an answer prepared other than "I studied photography in school, so I guess I should apply what I've learnt". Admittedly, it's kind of a cop out answer and isn't that strong.

Therefore, it got me thinking that I should probably define my own reasons for getting into photography. If only to serve as a personal reminder or a record of my thoughts at this point in time. Yes rambling and extrapolating on nonsensical unimportant tangents with intentionally verbose language is kind of how my brain seems to function all the time.

One of the best things about this blog for me is that I get to read my thoughts from the past. And I realised that this isn't actually a completely new topic that I've written about. It's been discussed in the past as well. See here & here. (So yes future self if you read this again I've collected some further readings for you to read. All written by yourself which makes it a bit narcissistic but then again it's your blog after all.)

So here is why I think I take photos, a.k.a. my photo-losophy. Hahaha I seem to be entertaining myself. And yes it is a long essay.

1. To document things.
Photography is used to "capture and preserve your most precious moments in the most unique and original way possible", so you "never miss a moment on the happiest day of your life", and of course "everything is shot hidden journalistic, candid, retro vintage authentic style" and in "genuine fun and creative environments".

By the way everything above was copy pasted from various wedding photography websites. And in the process of copying, I realised that some websites use the same few words so much that they would definitely fail any online university plagiarism checks. So instead of trying to figure out who wrote those 'original' words, here is a google search as my source.

The need to document things probably stems from my constant reluctance for change. A photo of something is an accurate enough representation of that something. It's an instant snapshot of a moment that existed, that will never exist again.

A photograph freezes a moment in time, as cliché as it sounds, and is still the best way to preserve memories, alongside videos. It's the reason why wedding, portrait and graduation photographers are around, because people innately want to preserve a moment which they can look back on and reminisce happily about.

And personally it's the strongest reason for why I take photos, because I don't want to forget certain events that happened, or places I've been to, or people I've met. Every event I've attended will never happen again.

Places I've been to might still be there in the short term, but maybe in the future it could make way for a new mixed-use residential-commercial development with soho apartments and luxury outlet stores and fancy restaurants. When I look back on photos I've taken, I realise that I have more and more photos of places that no longer exist in that state anymore. (For example, Tanjong Pagar Railway Station) With Singapore changing as quickly as it is, this will probably become the norm? I mean, I still have a shot of Singapore's skyline before the Marina Bay Financial District and Marina Bay Sands was even built. And that was only 5 or 6 years ago.

People I've met, because I might never meet them again. (A bit morbid but yes we all lose contact with friends) It could be a stranger I pass by on the street, or the two kids in front of me on a tour bus in New Zealand trying to practice their Chinese saying random words to us. Chances are I'll never meet them again but I can always look back and remember specific events thanks to my literal "photographic memory".

But yes, documenting things is kind of my main reason why I take photos.

2. To create something that doesn't exist.
A photograph is in a sense, a creation by itself. Although nowadays when you think of photos you think of digital files in your computer or phone. But still, a photograph is something that didn't exist before you made it. Admittedly it requires very little effort on your part to take a photo, but it's still on the same level as a painting or a composition, in a sense that they are creations made by you.

I won't be so pretentious as to call my photos art, hahaha. But still, it's pretty interesting to me to be able to create something that would never have existed if not for my involvement. I know the same can be said of many other things, but cameras create something that didn't exist before that. (Which is a photo ha)

For example, a long exposure photograph creates something that does not exist conventionally. No one (that I know) has the ability to open their eyes for 30 seconds and collect all the light entering in and processing and merging it all together, so that's why we have cameras to do the work for us.

You can do stuff like double exposures and light paintings and panoramas and all of this would be very difficult to achieve without a camera. So yes, another reason I take photos is because it's exciting to be able to make something that is not there. It's also interesting to be able to capture something that has always been there, but is never seen through conventional ways.

Also, this would be where fine art photographers earn their living, through the usage of photography as a medium to portray artistic concepts and provoke challenging thoughts? (I came up with this didn't steal it from any art photographers' website)

3. To sell something/make a statement.
This would be where commercial photographers, and photojournalists have a job. Since a significant aspect of photography, is to sell something to you. And this is true even for my Carousell listings where photographs of what you are selling is essentially sells the product more than whatever you can write to describe it.

Almost every print ad today has a photograph. Even as the DIGITAL REVOLUTION arrives and newspapers die a slow death, photographs are still everywhere on websites. The best way to represent a product or service is still a photo.

And photos are used to send a message or make a statement as well. It could be used to raise awareness about the plight of a certain group of people, or the struggles and conflicts happening overseas. Unfortunately the message sent could be for a good cause or a bad one, and it seems to be getting harder to tell the difference.

Assisting a commercial photographer has meant that all of the photos taken at work fall squarely into this category. Every photograph is meant to help the client sell something. It's been interesting to note the differences in photography as a result. For one, the product is essentially the most important part of the photo, and everything must complement the product (to sell it). This is very different from taking a photograph because it looks cool or to remember an instance in your life.

Work so far has started me thinking (again) as to what kind of photographer I would want to be. And I still have no idea. Personally, I'd want to document things as much as possible. But it's not very easy to earn money doing so, if only because everyone with a camera can do the same thing. But anyways, I'm still learning so I still have some time to figure this out I guess.

And thus ends my long essay on why I take photographs. Congrats if you made it to the end. Sorry if you were expecting photos but why I take photos doesn't mean I need to show any photos. Hahaha.

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