Why We Do It: Photographers on the Passion That Drives Their Work
For this post, I have read and watched some of the many photographers and photo editors who have influenced and inspired me over my last ten years in this industry – to answer these essential questions:
Why do they do it? Why do they wake up every morning ready to take photographs, to edit them, to publish them? Why is photography important to them and, by extension, to all of us?
Here are their answers.
Photographs are the universal language of our era. Everyone has hundreds, maybe thousands in their pocket. Weightless, they turn the scale when the argument is: What happened here? Images don’t age or warp. A great photographer’s strings never go out of tune.
They direct our eyes and hearts with precision and honesty, we know what we know differently and better. Photographers teach us to look again, look harder. Look through their eyes.
I shoot because I find peace in being especially active, and being a vigorous advocate for a cause.
How does one define what a “cause” is? According to Webster, it is “a person or thing that acts, happens, or exists in such a way that some specific thing happens as a result; the producer of an effect.”
My photography is first and foremost a catalyst or reason to motive human action or nature action. Every picture I take asks the questions, “Who am I and what is my role here on this earth?” It is my way of seeing. It is my way of saying this is another way of seeing me.
Sarah Leen, Director of Photography, National Geographic
Sarah Leen is the former Director of Photography for National Geographic Visual Media. For nearly 20 years before that she worked as a freelance photographer for National Geographic magazine until 2004, when she joined the staff as a Senior Photo Editor. Sarah published 16 stories and produced five covers for the magazine.
I have spent my entire professional life creating, editing, critiquing or teaching photography and working with photographers. It has been the way that I have experienced much of the world. In a deeply personal way I feel an image is a poem about time, about “staying the moment.” Photography can defeat time. Images can keep the memory of a loved one alive, hold a moment in history for future generations, be a witness to tragedy or joy. They can also change behavior, stimulate understanding and create a sense of urgency that will move people to action. Photography is the universal language that speaks to the heart.
Photographers are the dedicated, passionate and sometimes half-crazy individuals who are willing to give their lives, too often quite literally, to show us what needs to be seen, what needs to be known. I can think of no greater honor nor privilege than to have lived a life surrounded by images and the amazing individuals who create them and share them with us.
Stacy Kranitz, Photographer
For me it began with this fear of myself as a hermit and a search for a tool that would put me in a position to have to be out engaging with the world everyday.
Then it became this portal to and catalyst for reckoning with the other and how the camera can be used to breaking down barriers between the photographer, subject and viewer.
Now that the image has become devalued as a truth-revealing mechanism, it is free to own its subjectivity and becomes an ideal medium to navigate ideas around humanity, connection, identity, memory, presence, experience and intimacy.
MaryAnne Golon, Director of Photography, Washington Post
Why is photography important? Photography speaks. When I discovered and later understood photographic visual language, I saw that this language could inform, educate and move audiences worldwide without the need for a shared spoken language.
A successful photo story, when well-authored and edited, is universally understood. I once presented a photo story in China in silence to a professional photography group where the audience smiled, laughed, and fell quiet in all the right places — without a word in Mandarin or English. After the last frame, we all just beamed at each other. It was so thrilling.
I believe in light. Photography is light. That light is often shined into the darkest of places by the world’s bravest and most talented photojournalists. I have been most honored to support and publish work by many of them. I intend to continue nurturing, encouraging, supporting, cajoling, helping, counseling, appreciating, celebrating, and paying for professional photojournalism for as long as I am able. I believe in its power.
Jean-François Leroy, Director, Visa pour l’Image Photojournalism Festival
I’ve been doing what I do for 40 years because I’ve always had the same gluttony to discover, among all the proposals I receive, the pure nugget, the young photographer whose photographs are a slap in the face, the young photographer that has that rare talent. Today, to see established photographers, recognized by everyone, whom I exhibited first – I’m beyond proud.
Even if it can be difficult, at times, to work with photographers, I love to reveal them, to help them edit, to build, with them, a story. After all these years, I have the same passion for this witnesses of what we’re living through. They are our eyes. They show us what’s happening. They astonish us. They move us. They make us smile, sometimes. Cry, as well.
I can’t imagine my life without all these encounters, so enriching, so surprising, so astonishing. Life!
Send me your motivation, story that leads you into the photography world.