What is the most important question you can ask yourself as a photographer? There may be different questions depending on your circumstances, but in all cases, I believe they all lead back to the most fundamental question: “Why do you photograph?”
It’s the most important question because it requires you to look inward rather than outward for the answer. It removes the non-essential and reveals the only thing that can help you grow as a creative person; motivation.
It’s motivation that pushes you past the failures and challenges, the constant fear that perhaps you’re not good enough. Motivation keeps you oriented on the creative path instead of dependent on a goal. Goals aren’t bad, but they can also become distractions that move you away rather than towards personal vision.
Your personal vision.
Of course, you have personal vision. We all do. Meaningful photography is about sharing your personal vision, not achieving a goal defined by others. (Social-media likes, sales, or photo contests.)
In my latest 2018 wall calendar, I decided to write my answer to this question on the intro page. Below is what I wrote.
One of the most important questions an artist can ask him or herself is “Why do I do what I do?” In my case, it’s “Why do I photograph?”
Yet photography is just one of the ways I express myself creatively, much like others that inspire me in their focus on the message rather than the medium.
“I am an expressionist and by that I mean that I’m not a photographer or a writer or a painter or a tap dancer, but rather someone who expresses himself according to his needs.” – Duane Michals
I need to express myself for a simple reason. To share my overwhelming sense of gratitude. Gratitude for nature. Gratitude for life and living. And most of all, gratitude for the privilege I have to share those feelings and emotions with others through my work.
In this calendar, I’ve shared examples of that gratitude through my landscape photography. But I am always looking to find more ways to express myself according to my needs. The message is what matters most.
I hope this wall calendar increases the sense of gratitude in your life. That makes my work all the more meaningful.
We can all have our personal reasons for why we photograph that are equally valid. I share mine not to impress, but to clarify for me what motivates me.
What’s important here is not what the answer is, but that you’re taking the time to seriously ask the question. Think carefully about the answer. Challenge yourself to go beyond the obvious, and explore your emotions.
Not only will it help you see more clearly, it will remove distractions that don’t really produce better images. Meaningful images come from the heart, your heart. Don’t sacrifice that for anyone or anything.
“If you want the best the world has to offer, offer the world your best.” ? Neale Donald Walsch