What motivates you in street photography? What is the fuel that keeps you going? Why do you decide to go out and shoot, even though you might be tired, exhausted, or frustrated?
It is hard for me to always be motivated in street photography. There are days I don’t want to go out and shoot. Sometimes I can go for days without “seeing” an interesting photograph.
However what I think ultimately drives me in street photography is the need to take photographs. Not just a want, but a visceral need.
“Needing” versus “wanting” to take photos
What is the difference between “need” and “want”?
Needing to take a photograph is an absolute must. There are no compromises. You can’t go a day without taking a photograph. It is like going a day without food or water. You feel empty. You are thirsty and hungry. You need to photograph to quench that deep part of your soul that needs to take photographs.
Wanting to take a photograph isn’t nearly as urgent. You know you “should” take photographs, but it isn’t imperative. You can go along your daily life without taking photographs, because you don’t need to. You are totally content to experience things without capturing them.
Now I don’t think there is a “right” or a wrong when it comes to “needing” to take photographs versus “wanting” to take photographs. It is a personal choice. It is a decision. It is how you see the world, and how you wish to interact with it.
Ultimately, I don’t think you should force yourself to make photographs against your own will. If you don’t feel like taking photos, don’t take them. No need to force it.
But once again consider the following question: do you “need” to take photographs, or do you just “want” to take photographs? This question will continue to guide you in your photographic journey.
As for me? I must take photographs. I have a horrible sense of memory, and a fear that if I don’t capture my experiences on film– I might lose them.
For me photography is also a richer way to experience the world. Although it is true that sometimes photographing something can take away from the experience (like watching fireworks)– I find photograph heightens the experience I have. I feel more engaged with the rest of the world as I am actively documenting it– rather than just being a passive observer. I see myself as a sociologist with a camera, and the camera is just my research tool to collect fragments of everyday life, and ultimately put it together in some comprehensive document.
When I don’t take photographs of experiences, moments, or people I see or meet– I feel empty inside. I feel I am missing out. I regret not taking photographs.
I hope that one day my grandchildren can look at my life’s work and appreciate it. Find inspiration in it. To understand what his grandfather found interesting– and how he saw the world. This is another reason I shoot film: I am more confident that my grandchildren will be able to see my negatives and prints, than they are likely to see JPEG images on a hard drive (that might not be readable in 60 years).
When I see a scene and I’m not compelled to photograph it, it is because I don’t need to document the moment. Sometimes I think to myself, I “should” photograph that. But when I end up not taking the shot, I don’t mind.
However when I see a scene that I’m compelled to capture (for one reason or another)– I feel a deep urge to capture it. And there is always a moment of fear or hesitation. But because I “need” to take that photograph – it overrides the fear aspect. I then end up taking the photograph, and I feel fulfilled. If I don’t capture the moment, I feel photographically constipated.
So what motivates you to make photographs? And do you see yourself needing or merely wanting to make photographs? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.