This is a simple thought:
Avoid pessimism in life. Use photography as a tool, a stimulus, to help you find more purpose, direction, and joy in life.
Upon reflecting on the history of photography, this is an epiphany I had:
Most of the history of photography is very pessimistic (rooted in the history of MAGNUM).
The history of Magnum photos is that Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, etc wanted to document the world. Generally, their focus was photo-journalism. And what kind of images generally sell? Photographs of war, pain, famine, and suffering.
Thus this was the result:
Photos were only legitimate if they were depressing.
This is why we see so many photographs of suffering, famine, war, etc in the world.
I think it is important for us to photograph injustice and suffering in the world– but the scales are unbalanced. 80% of the photos out there from ‘legitimate photographers’ are about pain and suffering.
Why isn’t there more positive, or optimistic photos in the world?
So this is what happens:
Many young and aspiring photographers who seek to make a name for themselves in the photography world seek to make dramatic suffering photos (which have a spirit of pessimism).
To be honest, it is difficult to make dramatic photographs with optimistic and joyful photographs. Most people are hard-wired to be ‘risk averse’– which means, photos of pain, death, and suffering impact them more than happy/optimistic/joyful photos.
We new photographers– perhaps we should strive to make powerful and optimistic photographs.
Furthermore, perhaps our photographs shouldn’t scream so much about morality. I believe that ultimately photographs and images are amoral (they are just light reflections). Photographs and images only become moralized via the interpretation of others.
Perhaps we should strive to make more photographs which we consider beautiful — photographs that have a spirit of beauty and optimism.
Just think to yourself:
When I go out and shoot photographs, what kind of moments, mood, or feelings am I trying to capture?
When you’re out shooting photos, do you look for pain and suffering? Or do you look for joy and optimism?
For myself, I photograph cold. Which means, I shoot street photographs like a visual sociologist. To me, humans are endlessly fascinating, which drives my photographic pursuits.
In my SUITS project, I photographed suits who looked miserable. Yet, I still think the undertones of the project is one of optimism:
Even though you are stuck in a job that you hate and feel miserable in — you can still escape!
You aren’t a slave. Nobody is forcing you to work a job you hate. It is only fear which holds us doing shit we don’t like doing.
- Focus on making photographs with a spirit of optimism, joy, and hope. There is already a plethora (excessive over-supply) of photographs of pain, suffering, injustice in the world. Perhaps our photographs should say, “Even though the world is shitty in same ways, it is a ‘net positive’!”
- Make photographs which put a smile on your face. Make photographs that give you hope and joy in life. Also spend a lot of time looking at your older photos, and curate your older photos, and keep pushing yourself to advance as a photographer and visual artist.
- Ask yourself: “What kind of message, emotion, or mood am I trying to convey to my viewers? How successful am I?”
Never stop shooting!