The past few weeks I’ve been out shooting a lot and creating a new series of images, with a strong focus on aerials and a different perspective of New Zealand. At times, people seem to question what I do and why I do it. Even the concept of my workshop business is a strange one for some to comprehend. Yes, people actually invest in and travel purely for photography. But why? Why do we feel the urge to capture a moment in time and what led us to this point in the first place?
For all the photographs I create, I’m not being paid by anyone to do so. What I shoot purely comes from an inexplainable and sometimes maddening desire within. Sure, I run a photography workshop business, but the imagery I make isn’t dictated by business. If I were purely in this for the business I wouldn’t be making the photos that I do (we all know a human element shot, oversaturated colours and only posting vertical images for more screen-space is a recipe for growth on instagram). But, I’d much rather work another job than remove the self expression and freedom from my photography.
The same flame that ignited inside of me many years ago burns brighter than ever today. I honestly love photography; the places it leads me and the exploration that is part of the creation process, it’s all united. Planning, scouting, reacting to the unbridled forces of nature – all this humbles me and keeps me grounded. When I’m with my camera, I feel as though I’m seeing the world in it’s purest form, as though through the eyes of a child. Behind the lens, I still get the same feeling of excitement and gratitude as I did when I clicked the shutter for the first time 7 years ago. Photography has helped me see the individual drops of water that integrate and form a raging river and my ears are now in tune with the subtle sounds of the forest. Once overlooked, the broken, rocky remains along shorelines now tell stories of resilience and hope and when I see the late afternoon light casting its warmth upon my surroundings, I can’t help but pause for a moment and admire. Through my lens, the world is a much bigger and more beautiful place. My photography is the by-product of my experiences in nature and is as much apart of me as anything I’ve ever known.
Eventually, the honeymoon period is over and this new love evolves into a more complex relationship. Priorities may change, challenges arise and for some, the flame goes out. Like all of us, I wear many different caps in life. Im a husband, father, son, brother, friend, photographer and business owner. In all of these aspects there’s certainly plenty of room for improvement. One thing I try do daily is self reflect. Reflecting upon my motives, regrets and my hopes. Did I make quality time to play with and educate my son today? Have I pulled my weight around the house? When did I last check in with my parents just to say hello? The motions of daily life can cause us to become stuck in a rut, blindly digging ourselves down to a place which prohibits our growth. Sure, we can’t do it all, but as long as we’re pressing on, then we will continue to move forward.
In the midst of the social media age, it’s common for me to hear about people get burned-out or caught up in the popularity contest of social networking, losing the enjoyment of photography along the way. Facebook groups, instagram, forums, private chat groups, websites, exhibitions, contests and more contests … when it comes to publishing your photography there’s no shortage of options and each outlet wants your time, your money or even just your screen-time which they can convert to money (via ad-revenue). It’s no wonder I see so many people get over it all. Ironically the one thing that sets us free (photography) can just as easily enslave us.
Life’s way too short to suppress ideas or ambitions and if something is in the way or holding you back, then the only way is to face it head on. It’s this mindset that led me to quit my job to be a full-time photographer, to pack up family and everything familiar and move to another country. I don’t want to live in regret and the haunting thought of ‘what if’.
When it comes to photography, don’t let yourself get caught up in a game that can’t be won. Social media apps will come and go, algorithms change and what’s trending now won’t be next week. Surround yourself with inspiration and remove what doesn’t yield positivity. To create memorable images you need to be familiar with your subject, making the time to learn about and study whatever it is you’re capturing. Into my 5th year as a professional photographer, it’s only in the past 12-months that I feel like I’ve began to somewhat understand my subject of the natural world and how to capture it the way I have always hoped to. Despite what people may say or try and sell you, there’s nothing like the experience from learning things first hand from your mistakes and simply gaining experience by building up hours and hours behind the lens. Something that isn’t that hard to do when you’re enjoying the process and not competing with anyone or anything. Staying true to yourself will free your mind and open up a new level of unbridled creativity.
So, what caused you to pick up a camera in the first place and is it what keeps you still shooting today?