Last month at the NZIPP annual conference a lot of the speakers spoke about their 'why'. Why they were photographers and what it meant to them. At first this fascinated me. To think every person in the room around me had chosen photography as a career because they were passionate about it, not just because it was a job. Remember I went to conference just days after handing in my resignation at work - the concept that you can make a life out of what sets your soul on fire is still relatively new & exciting for me!
Then it got me thinking about my 'why' because I'd never really stopped to think about it before. I've always loved taking photos but it wasn't until I pursued portraiture that I fell in love with it and since then I've become obsessed with photography. Over the last few weeks I have been doing some soul searching, looking for how to put my 'why' into words. To say I love what I do seems like an understatement. So here is my version of what being a photographer means to me...
When I look at our wedding album, when I see our family portraits on the wall, when I see framed prints on my bookshelf of me with my Mum & Dad, when I see photos taken of me as a baby/toddler/child before I could even remember - I get this feeling, an emotion, almost a physical reaction. Photographs bring back memories and remind me of a beautiful, happy time.
I can't look at our wedding album without smiling. I can't look at a photograph of my Dad without feeling raw; his eyes twinkle and the smile on his face reminds me of how great it was to be his little girl. There is a photograph of Matt as a toddler on our wall, long before I knew him, yet every time I look at it I wonder if our children will look more like him or me at that same age. I also think often of the photographs that weren't taken, the photographs that I know I would treasure now. I don't have a single professional family portrait from my childhood, I have beautiful snapshots which I treasure, but I wish we had the type of portraits I create today for my clients.
Matt's Grandad passed away recently & we went through a lifetime of photo albums to create a photo slideshow for his funeral. At the end of the day Matt turned to me and said the importance of a photograph had just hit home for him; those photographs were the only visual reminders left, they held memories of good times and they would now be treasured forever. It is so true. When a loved one dies the first thing we do is turn to our photographs.
I believe everyone should exist in a portrait. It's not vanity, it's preservation. I do not believe I am a photogenic person but I jump at the chance to be in the photo because when I look back I will remember being in that moment. Mothers are so often taking the photo of their child, but in years to come that child will look at their photos and wish their mum was in them more, that they could see the look on their mum's face as she held them. I hear so much about negative body image these days, geez I know I have a hard time loving my body, but I have promised myself that if I have children I won't ever put off being in a photo because I feel self-conscious. I want my children to know that beauty comes from the inside and a true photograph shows that.
I've always had a creative mind, so I often wonder why it took me so long to find photography. Yet it's not just the creating of portraits that sets my soul on fire. It's knowing that one day my bride's grandchildren will look at her wedding album and smile at how much times have changed. It's knowing that in fifty years a photo I captured might be the most treasured possession to someone.
I get to document lives, preserve memories and create portraits for my clients that will last longer than my lifetime. The feeling and emotion that a photograph can evoke, the stories a photograph can tell and what a photograph can mean to someone; that is my why.