Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why DO I photograph?

Yesterday, I asked a – seemingly – simple question on my Facebook page.

"Why do you consider yourself a photographer?"

Or in other words. Why do you photograph? I got a few replies and that got me thinking. I've never asked or answered that question myself. So here is why I photograph.

Years ago, when I was still in school, I somehow found myself choosing a direction I thought I was going to love. It was called 'Industrial Sciences'. It involved a good a chunk of math, sciences (chemistry and physics) and a large amount of hands-on trade classes (like metalworking and an electricity class).

I liked the science and math part of the schooling. I absolutely disliked the hands on construction stuff part (I'm just clumsy, ask Sarah). My dad is awesome at building things though (I guess I never got that part of his DNA). But there was one class that I aced. That class was 'Technical Drawing'. No CAD, just hands-on drawing. Man I was good at this. I always ended up top of the class. Always! You needed a meticulous approach to not F these drawings up. And you needed patience. Things – once I set my mind to it – I had.

That class was the reason why in the next year I switched schools and ended up doing 'Architectural Drawing'. Instead of going to a technical school, I was now finding myself in an 'art school'. It was weird. It was a school that promoted 'personal development'. Like it was ok for you to wear a full on mohawk, ripped jeans and rockband shirts. It was a real eye opener personally. That year, I really explored and searched for who I was or what 'group' I belonged to.

The education we got was an interesting mix of architectural technology stuff, math, physics and of course a huge chunk of 'art'.
We had an 'Art History' class. In that class, we dissected, week after week, paintings, buildings and cathedrals by the old masters. Talking about compositions, proportions and for instance reasons behind why things where pointed at some sort of focal point on paintings. At that time, I thought it was a complete waste of time. Looking back at it, I wasn't mature enough to fully understand and appreciate those masters. And I certainly didn't understand why I had to learn all this old stuff for things I would create today. It turned out, that was foolish for me to say. To this day, those classes turned out to be shaping my way in every single way.

I flunked that second year because I was done with those 'artsy fartsy people'. I wanted something real. That's when I found my love for 'Graphic Design'. Completely by chance. It fused my drawing talent with composition (something, by now, I started to understand the importance off). That's when everything fell into place on a personal level for me. This was something I was really good at. This was something that I loved.

I pretty much coasted through three years of Graphic Design education. Never really had to put a lot of effort into it because everything came naturally. Sure, I had my ups and downs. Sure I struggled with some trivial stuff (like French, gawd I hated French). Especially the very last year, was easy. Just because I loved it so much, everything 'came' naturally.

So after starting my first real job, I quickly lacked a creative outlet. I could only do so much at that job. And as a noob in the business, I didn't have the credibility or confidence in what I did, like I do now.

The next year, I decided to start a 2 year vocational course in 'B&W photography: darkroom printing and archival techniques'.

Have you ever experienced something where you knew 'I'm meant to do this'? Well for me, that was this course. I was meant to do this. Photography combined my understanding of composition, my technical skills I had from being a graphic designer, my meticulousness and my approach to create stuff from the heart. Needless to say, I aced that course too. And did an extra year, just for the fun of it.

That brings me to the end of my story. Why photography? Why do I photograph? Why do I consider myself a photographer? An artist even?

Practicing photography teaches me in the first place who I am, what I want to become and how to be a better man. It keeps my mind in check and I am able to share with you things nobody else – but me – notices, in a way, nobody else can reveal them to you. In other words, I'm unfolding my mind to you through my work, right in front of you. For me, the images I make, come naturally, straight from my heart or my mind. Sometimes I don't photograph for a long stretch of time just because I don't have to. Because I don't feel like I need to. Those are the good times. Other times (the bad ones) I feel the need to be out there on my own. Photographing. Translating my thoughts and fears in images.

O, and I can't paint for shit. ;)


  1. i'm in a stage where i'm trying listen well to myself and follow my being...
    discovering new things eevryday..
    love photography,but there's something that's telling to simply write..
    it comes naturaly for me..
    guess i was born to do this but only time will define..
    beautiful words by the way..

    1. Always follow your heart Israa. If your heart tells you to write, go and write! If it tells you to paint, pick up that paint brush!

  2. From the time I was young, in everything I did, I always came back to photography. The lightbulb should have lit above my head much sooner.

    1. Wasn't it a great feeling when you had your 'aha-moment'?

  3. Awesome post Oli! I loved hearing about your journey! :)

  4. I ask myself this on a very regular schedule but have never come to a solid conclusion. I may need to take this idea and create a post of my own in an effort to dissect what keeps me going. Photography can be an expensive journey and when it's not responsible for your sole income - there is something to be said about what keeps us so completely attached to it.

  5. Nice Oli.

    Your love for your art and your profession is pretty much the same as my love for my art and profession. Come to think of it, we could probably replace "art and profession" in my last sentence with words and phrases like, "passion", "part of who we are", "something we can't live without" or simply "our photography."

    For me, and obviously for you too, photography is something I simply cannot stop practicing. Photography is an essential part of our lives.

  6. Wonderful topic. There have A HUGE list of reasons why photography is awesome, and why one should become a photographer. It can completely change our life.