I am a little late to joining this discussion, which seems like little more than a missing passion in Rob C. If I may make a few comments of my own:
I need to make one point about street photography before I leave the discussion. Eric hit the nail on the head when he said, "It generally leaves me unmoved unless it displays some significant relationship..." That's exactly what good street photography does, and when it does, it's what I call "art." Good street photography conveys information about the human condition that you can't put into words -- unless, possibly, you're a very, very good novelist or poet. I think it's difficult almost to the point of impossibility to do that in any other photographic genre.
Russ, this statement is true of all good photography; essentially it is a default back to the adage: "A picture's worth a thousand words."
Perhaps an addendum could be made, "A great picture cannot be quantified into words."
This is as true of a beautifully-captured sunset as it is of a serendipitous capture of a unique human expression or moment: there is a capture of something emotional or moving that cannot be described in any other way, but just to behold it and enjoy it.
One thing is for sure, banging on here about travelling, making images and the art of photography results in absolutely nothing. At least those tourists are showing an interest and getting out there and actually doing it.
Keith, I agree with you. I notice there is an infectious pathology here where too many worry about "what others do" (or don't do), and why, instead of just concentrating on doing their own thing for their own reasons.
I stand by my observations: tourism is a poison that kills without you noticing.
Actually, Rob, the real truth is cities full of people in general
are a poison to this world ... and are spreading and killing our world with their over-abundance, their waste, and their wanton disregard for trampling what's left of the unspoiled natural beauty of this world. But that's a whole other subject.
Regarding the subject of motivation, at least the photographer tries to appreciate what is beautiful this world by capturing it with his camera.
To me, the whole point of photography is never-ending effort to appreciate and capture the beauty of our world
, be that beauty found in the lands, the skies, the seas, the creatures, or the people of this world. The photographer is forever trying to capture something
beautiful, or something
emotionally/spiritually-moving to him, and therefore this passion to be moved
is what forever drives him.
Interesting question. I, for one, take pictures avidly when traveling or on vacation. However, I do the same in my own city, NYC, as well as the surrounding urban and more rural areas. My actions come from a pair of parallel fascinations. First is with experience: experience of my surroundings, the people in them, the man-made elements in them and nature's final say on both of those. Second is with the experience of photography, which for better or worse has been a drive in my life since age 4 or 5.
I enjoy the process of seeing. This includes things new to me as well as things very familiar to me. I enjoy the process of reaching for my camera when I see something that says something to me, and that "something" is not always expressable in words although sometimes it is, too. I enjoy the challenge of making my camera (not 6, but 8 megapixels) through composing and then postprocessing and printing, capture the essence of what moved me when I saw the scene. I am particularly moved by contrasts in time, contradictions, our impact on nature, and the reverse: nature's impact on us.
I enjoy seeing something in the familiar that many others overlook. I enjoy finding the beauty in a scene that many would consider ugly, and vice-versa. When I shoot a record shot I try to capture the angle and perspective that will later remind me
and perhaps show others, how I saw what I saw. I also enjoy, sometimes many years later, the memories of the experience evoked when I occasionally review my old pictures.
I have stood on the observation deck of the Empire State Building and enjoyed the company of tourists from all over the world, sometimes helping them spot sights that they are looking for to shoot, and the exchanges have always been gratifying. When I travel, I have found as a tourist that local people are eager to show me what they consider impaortant to see in their area.
When I see all those people, arms extended and eyes squinting at almost-dimmed out LCD's, I realize that there is a love of photography that makes it so popular, and it can be considered a democratization of art.
I also admire the amateur painter whom I pass at the ramp from Riverside Drive to the GW Bridge, who paints the same buildings every time I observe him. I also see, while I am photographing the power of the sea and rocks off Ocean Point, Maine, the same straw-hatted lady, year after year, who paints the "same" ocean scene, just for the sheer enjoyment of translating what her inner eye senses about that scene into physical movement and feel of brush and paint on textured canvas.
Yes, I don't mind selling my prints, either. But the urge to shoot is very longstanding, and I would not be surprised to find that many of those tourists with point-and-shoots experience some of the same joys, with some of the same motivations, that I experience.
This was a great post. I think a true photographer is somebody who "has" to capture photos because something inside him compels him to do so.
I walk around my property every day (50 acres of Florida wilderness) taking hundreds of photos (most of which I just throw away), just because I love taking photos. I am getting much better at my skills, and yet I still realize I have a long way to go. But none of this matters when I am out there, because I simply enjoy doing it more than anything else. Case in point: I was on the way out the door yesterday, dressed nicely for an appointment, and I happened to see a Great Purple Hairstreak butterfly as I was walking toward my car. I hadn't seen this species in over 2 years, despite uncountable forays into nature, both on my propert and through many Florida State Parks. So I immediately dropped everything in my hands, quickly got my camera, and I proceded to take over 60 pictures of this tiny, beautiful creature ... until it flew away for good. Throughout the process, I had to get on my knees and elbows in the dirt for some shots, and I had to chase it far off into the woods for others, until it simply took off for good. By the time I was done, I had to change my clothes and was unpardonably late to my appointment, but the ability to capture that animal to camera was the only thing I thought about all day long after the fact.
Another person might not have cared, might not have even noticed, but I did notice and I did care very much. Everything was forgotten except the beauty of that animal and my chance to capture it here and now. To me, that is the essence of photography, with different people having different subjects that inspire and drive them to shoot.
Rob, at the risk of getting personal, you seem to be a perpetual cynic, questioning everything, even your own motivation. You seem to worry too much about what "other people think/do," and/or how something may "look." There is only one thing over which you have complete control and that is you. Questioning your motives can be good, but wallowing in self-questioning is a sign of impotence, a lack of passion. What are you passionate about? If you are passionate about nothing, the real question should be WHY have you lost your passion, and what elements to your life might inspire passion in you?
Once you have a true passion for something, the rest of these silly little questions and self-doubts will instantly become irrelevant.