It’s so very easy to get caught up in yourself as a photographer. It’s never an immediate thing, either. You start out like all the rest of us: humble, clueless, eager. You absorbed knowledge, made mistakes, missed shots and ruined others. You disappointed yourself, and was told “it’s ok” by the people you wanted to impress. But you got better. You learned. You improved. You became a real photographer. You attained some semblance of success.
But somewhere along the line, some of us get caught up in ourselves, in our own idea of success. The people who helped us suddenly were insignificant, you tell others. Though you preach trial and error, you belittle those who make “stupid mistakes.” The photos you take suddenly are not about the person in the photo, but about how much of an amazing photographer you are. It’s about what gear you use, what techniques you have mastered, what skills you have attained. Money, success, notoriety… they have changed you.
This isn’t you, but it is probably someone you know. We have seen the “idols” of this industry come and go, many of whom became cults of personality with little focus on the subject of an image, but instead on the photographer. This sets a very dangerous precedent: that the photographer is more important than his subjects.
The commercial above really captures what I think is very important for all of us to remember: our photos are not about us. The images we take, the moments we capture, they are all bigger than we are. The emotions in a photo belong to the subjects within them. Yes, we as photographers were able to capture that in a still, but in the grand scheme of things… that is only at most half the story.
In this time of year I think it’s important to do a little self reflection, some soul searching. In that commercial you’ll notice that the photographer is barely seen and never named. That is on purpose… and for good reason. Sometimes we need to be front and center, but more often than that, we need to be the ones in the back.
[Video via Trevor Dayley]