At one time I fancied myself a pro photographer in the making. I was, after all, published many times over, licensed to governments and universities and industries far and wide. And somewhere inside me I felt this meant something, meant I needed to refine my skill, meant I needed to forge from my hobby the discipline and professional finesse that would mark me as a photographer, a real photographer, a paid photographer.
Yet 95% of my photography is unplanned and 99.9% of it is shot from the hip, handheld with only my own body to carry the load and steady the aim. Which only recently began to tell me something, something about my photography and where it was going as much as about memory, and memories, and remembering.
For we don’t choose our memories, we don’t plan them, we don’t manipulate them such that they are good or great when recorded. No, very much like my photography, my memories are shot from the hip, only my mind serving to brace the mental camera and steady its sensory aim.
And though I can pick out more than an unfair share of memories that I would consider bad, I would not trade them for the world, for what has come before is what has brought me to this place. Not so much defining me, for post hoc ergo propter hoc is a logical fallacy indeed, but my memories draw the boundaries of my experience, lessons to be learned from, whether good or bad, and moments forever defined in my mental photo gallery.
Ultimately, and not before trying to be a different kind of photographer, I found myself relinquishing control and allowing myself to enjoy the way I like to take photos: from the hip, ad hoc, as life happens. Like accumulating memories from decades gone by, something about that kind of photography fulfills within me the need to paint a picture that is real—dare I say natural?—and unvarnished by what I hoped for.
Because the world is rarely what we hoped for. It’s up to us to accept that and make do with what comes our way, good or bad, and relish the memories—the photographs—not because they make us laugh or make us weep or fill our otherwise monotonous days with variety, but instead because they are real, they are ours, and the story they tell is a tale no other may know. For they are, you see, my photographs, my memories, and they capture not just what was seen by me, but also what I experienced, where I was, when I was, and what I was doing.
So a professional photographer I will never be. And I’m rather pleased with that.
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- Thread-waisted wasp (Eremnophila aureonotata)
- Widow skimmer (a.k.a. widow; Libellula luctuosa)