When people ask me why I want to be a photographer I say that I always liked taking pictures. As a kid this meant taking pictures with disposable film cameras I was given for trips and summer camp. I was a snap happy little thing with very bad composition and limited ability to not have part of my finger in the frame. But I was enthusiastic and happy. The only limit to my photography was the number of pictures the roll of film allowed and my parents suggestion that paying to develop at least a third of the photos was a waste of money as they were terrible (I have gone through those old photos and thought what the hell was happening and what was this photo supposed to be of).
The impulse to take pictures, to document things and see what happened when I got the film back was far removed from a final product that some other human being especially ones who was not directly related to me, may feel some desire to look at the photo I had taken. I just wanted to click away and take pictures of things, all the things.
I owned the first digital camera in my family. I really wanted one because I was interested in photography. My parents were more than happy because they would no longer have to pay to get my crap pics developed. I liked that I could take as many pictures as I wanted of whatever I wanted and the only limit was my battery life. During a family trip to Vancouver after grade seven I took over 2,000 photos in less than a week.
After graduating high school I asked for a DSLR camera as a grad present. I got it for Christmas in first-year. There was this powerful machine I knew nothing about using but wanted very much to learn how to use. A friend of mine in high school had purchased a fancy mirrorless camera after a job during the summer between grade eleven and twelve. Whenever he would let me I took photos, lots of them. Moderation has never been my strong suit.
I was both excited and intimidated by the new camera. I had started hanging around the student newspaper office where there were a lot of people who seemed to know a lot more about cameras and photography than me. They took good pictures and knew what the different buttons did. I had no clue.
It wasn’t until after third-year that I really started to figure things out. I unexpectedly got a scholarship and decided to buy a nice lens with it. For the first time (in what would be followed by many more) I felt that buying a new lens would fix all my photography problems. The new lens was expensive and wonderful and does take really good photographs. In the years since graduating from my undergrad I’ve learned that the trick is really hard work. You have to take a lot of photographs and read a lot of articles and blog posts. Slowly you put it all together and you learn more and more. My photos are consistently better and better to the point where I almost feel like a real photographer (I’ve even sold a couple of prints to people I’ve never met via Society6).
I constantly think about what will look good. Will this get likes? Is it good enough to be worth posting? It’s fun but it’s serious and it’s work. It is far removed from my childhood state of photographing everything with no quality control.
My sister loves Snapchat and has been nagging me endlessly to get on it. A couple of weeks ago I caved. I was sceptical but have fallen head over heels for Snapchat. I like that I don’t have to think or worry or edit or censor. They will only see it for ten seconds so who cares if it’s just a blurry photo of my foot? There is nothing too terrible or too mundane to send on Snapchat. I save good photos that I would be okay with strangers seeing for Instagram. This is liberating. It’s a return to my roots. A place where I can have my finger in front of the lens and be shooting into the sun and be taking a picture of nothing interesting and still do it. The person will respond with an equally mundane and potentially low quality image and as long as a hacker doesn’t reveal our activity we can be as useless and incompetent as we want.
I also know these people. They are stuck pretending they care or at least thinking that was eccentric. They’re not strangers judging me on the Internet. They knew me in high school. If they were going to disown me they would have done it by now.
I am glad I joined Snapchat. I don’t know how my sister feels about it. Maybe she is thinking back to those endless rolls of mostly crap photos from summer camp or maybe she’s wondering why on earth I would actually share this thing with her. I feel like we’re closer. She gets to see the most real bits of my life, unedited and unfiltered. No pretension, no skill needed, just a couple of taps on an iPhone screen.