photography and photographs understood

Three Enjoyable Aspects to Photography

writer: russell j.t. dyer; posted: Jul 2009; revised: Mar 2018; readers past month: 612

This is my photography equipment closet. As you can see, I have more equipment than should have a normal person or an amateur photographer.

Photography seems to have three main components to it besides the photographer: the equipment, the using of the equipment, and the photographs. I believe enjoying and appreciating all three makes one a photographer, or at least an amateur photographer—a lover of photography.

I like photography in general. However, I don’t always like the process of taking photographs, per se. At times, I find the act of photographing a bit mechanical—but that’s only when I’m photographing while traveling or some other circumstances while on-the-go. In a studio setting, or when I’m outside and photographing something very carefully and intentionally, I like that. What I do like always is the results of my photographic acts. I like having taken good photographs.

When I was younger I used to draw. The process of drawing is relaxing and enjoyable. I also liked the images I created. But I wasn’t all that into art supplies. Do I like drawing more than photographing? I don’t think so. What I’m wondering about more is am I missing out on something. Am I not enjoying photography as much as I should. Is photography more of a job for me than a love: am I more of a professional than an amateur?

I know I’m jumping here, but this is a musing. So let me bring in another subject for comparison and contrast. I’ve worked in the computer industry for many years, most of my life. I’ve programmed computers, designed web sites (this site for example), and written extensively about computer software (search the web on my name and you’ll see). Because of this extensive background in computers, people assume that I like computers. I don’t. I like what I can do with them, but not computers themselves. To me they are just tools and I’m not fascinated with them. I do, however, like photography equipment: I like buying and having cameras and lots of photography equipment.

Let me bring in one more element to this musing: as a boy I used to love wandering around hardware stores and looking at the tools. I was fascinated by tools. I’m not sure why, but I liked them and wanted them. I didn’t have too much interest in making things with them, though. I just wanted them.

For almost every craft or art, it seems that there are the tools related to the art, the act of creating the art form, and the art which is created. Photography seems to be the only art form for which I am fascinated by the tools, love having created the art, and sometimes enjoy the creation process. I am a little concerned, though, about my less than overly enthusiastic feelings about the creation process.

It may seem strange that I’m not all that into to taking photographs. It’s probably an unexpected attitude from someone who has spent as much time and money as I have on photography, and has written as much as I have on the subject. However, I like to be realistic. Can photography yield the same satisfying feelings, the same stimulation as that of a violinist, for instance? I’ve never been very good at creating music, although I enjoy listening to it—especially classical music. Is it that I’m not so artistic in my nature when it comes to photography? I don’t think so. I cannot imagine any artistic photographer having the same sensation as a violinist while playing her violin, passionately. I guess the difference is that the act of creating and appreciating the results is simultaneous for a performance artist. Whereas for painters and photographers, although we aren’t stimulated as intensely in the process of creating, we are free to concentrate on creating. We have the advantage of adjusting many times before the final art is released to the world. That deep concentration and all that tweaking naturally takes the passion out of the process.

As I muse on this further, I may have it wrong about performance artists. Maybe performance artists aren’t able to enjoy the creations process any more than we non-performance artists. Maybe they are so involved in the creation that they must wait to hear recordings of their work later (e.g., listen to the music CD, or watch the video of the play). If that’s true, then my expectations for the process of creating photographs has been unrealistic. The expectation should be that I find the process of creating photographs to be fascinating. I do. Therefore, I do enjoy all three elements necessary to make one a photographer. That’s a satisfying realization.