As I continue winding down my career, I’ve been looking at some very old photographs. Some of them are so bad I can’t believe I got paid to make them. Luckily I’ve always been better at selling than shooting. :)
But what has held my attention the most is just how big a part of my life photography has been. For decades it’s been my constant companion. No matter what, it’s there for me. So I decided to try to articulate why I love photography and I wrote this letter…
Here’s why I love you.
a. You let me communicate with anyone and everyone who sees my work. Thank you for giving me a voice I didn’t have before we met.
b. You also gave voice to all the places, people, animals and things I made photos of over all these years. You’ve been the voice of a budding bride, a newborn wolf pup, courting egrets, overheated race cars, towering waterfalls, kings, queens, rock stars, movie stars, athletes, politicians, business leaders and bums. On behalf of them all I say thank you for letting them be recognized through my pictures of them.
c. You gave me purpose. Many people wonder what the meaning of life is. For me, it’s been keeping, protecting and sharing memories made with a camera.
d. You gave me value. While I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life, you let me help rectify those mistakes by preserving memories and acting as a high priest of memory protection. I know for a fact that at least some of the pictures I made will live on well past me, and continue to give people joy. There’s real value in that proposition and since I have no children, it’s my one chance to contribute even after I am gone from this place.
e. You let me be a witness to many wonderful things and places and events and people and animals, and – well you know what I mean. Whether it was the privilege of witnessing a deer give birth, or watching a baby mountain lion come out of its den for the first time, or Tom Sneva hitting the wall on the short chute of turn two at Indianapolis, the things I have seen would fill 10 lifetimes. None of these things would have been open to me without a camera.
f. You’ve let me see beauty in what is becoming an increasingly ugly world. When I’ve been down, you’ve perked me up with the opportunity to make important images of lovely lakes, beautiful blue skies, surreal sunsets and fabulous fields of flowers.
g. You’ve helped me to understand that each and every moment – even THIS moment is precious and should be guarded and noticed and shared and protected as if it were the last moment on this planet.
h. You’ve helped me earn a good living. You’ve given me a way to do important work that matters and at the same time have the money I need to live a great life. It’s amazing to me that I could do either let alone both.
i. You’ve helped me understand the emotional connection people feel to each other and places that I never understood until I made photos that caused people to cry, laugh, giggle or nod.
j. You’ve helped me learn more about myself, my need to express myself – my need to matter and to do something good.
k. You’ve allowed me to make other people happy. You’ve allowed me to do this by letting me get close to people with a camera so I could show them a side of themselves that maybe they didn’t even know they had.
l. You’ve helped me become a time traveler. Letting me look at my past through old photos in a way that wouldn’t be the same if there wasn’t a photographic record to rely on.
m. You’ve helped me realize that life is short, fragile, impermanent and that has in turn helped me to appreciate that which I do have as opposed to worrying about what I don’t have.
n. You’ve helped me to see the world as an artist, not just a passer by. It’s amazing how much beauty stays hidden just beneath the surface of things and how quickly a camera can uncover these hidden gems.
o. You’ve given me a reason to be. I needed something to live for. I needed something I could leave behind. You did all that and never asked anything from me.
While this love letter to photography may seem trite, corny, stupid, silly or weak to someone on the outside, on the inside, it only scratches the surface of how I feel about you.
In closing I just want to end this in a manner that seems oh so insufficient – but THANK YOU.
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