Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Amish Have It Backwards

No, I don't mean the buggies. The Amish are reputed to avoid getting pictures taken of them because they fear losing their soul. I think they are talking about the wrong end of the camera. Thirty years ago in Germany, I got paid to take news photos for the Army just like now. I had a lot of success. One of my pictures landed on the cover of Stars and Stripes. Hundreds got published.

Then I quit taking pictures. In fact, I don't actually own a camera. I have a camera in my cell phone and that has been enough. Everyone around me seems to have cameras so I let them take pictures. Over the last week I started to remember one of the reasons why I stopped. The camera hurts the soul of the photographer. It doesn't steal your soul--that might be better. But the more pictures I take and the better they are, the more I am "the guy with the camera."

Now when people have events they want me to take the picture. And they want me to take the picture they way they want it--which means the picture is going to suck anyway. It will suck in my $3000 camera (Army Property) instead of sucking in their $100 camera.

Why will it suck. Because inevitably, they envision a photo beginning with the BACKGROUND. Their goal is a tourist photo which includes themselves and all of the Ziggurat of Ur, or a square mile of desert, or an entire Chinook Helicopter. Which means the people disappear. YUCK.

I take photos: eyes first, then face, then enough of the rest of the body to convey attitude. I want to see someone through their work.

So the real problem is that I am becoming more judgmental than I already am. Cameras are harsh. People who look good normally can look bad in pictures. They look worse in my kind of pictures because I get close. I start to look at people through the lens and know before the first shot they will look bad. I know most people around me are happy with the photos they take. I would not have cared before I was shooting pictures four days a week. Now I am looking at them like they drink $3 boxed wine.

So if I am not careful, it will be me who loses his soul, from the back side of the camera.

My First Military Haircut, February 1, 1972

The night before my Basic Training haircut. When I arrived at Lackland Air Force Base on February 1, 1972, among the first order of bu...