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.