Photographing Feelings with Compact Cameras by Josh White

Seoul, South Korea.
Seoul, South Korea.

This article is written by Josh White, originally posted here.

Josh: More fish. After spending the previous weekend in Busan I found it hard to get away from the couple of photos I took there. I feel like I figured something out about myself there.

I’ve always found it really hard to explain why I like the photos I take with small, compact cameras more. It always seemed that if I went on a trip or something no matter how many huge cameras I took the photos I ended up liking the most were the ones from the smaller cameras.

Seoul, South Korea.
Seoul, South Korea.

I think I figured it out.

I don’t like to take pictures with my brain. When I see something I want to photograph I want to photograph it right away. It may be nothing, may look like nothing, but at that moment I know I want to take a picture. When using a bigger camera, I feel like the photo I take doesn’t match my mood or feeling at the time I took it. There is always a momentary lapse of consciousness from when I’ve felt I wanted to take a picture to when I actually do. I’m thinking about things, settings, flash, ISO, bokeh or no bokeh, and the like. Even if these things only go through my head for a moment or a fraction of a moment, when I actually take the photo it no longer matches the feeling I initially had.

Seoul, South Korea.
Seoul, South Korea.

It IS that moment between. Seems like nothing, but it is the difference. I want a photo I take to match the feeling I had when I decided to take it. I guess I take photos of feelings. Maybe thats why some people say my photos are intimate. I doubt it is because they are close as much as it is that they are all a self portrait of my own feelings. 

Seoul, South Korea.
Seoul, South Korea.

I remember playing games like this when I was a kid. More so I remember being the kid on the right watching my friends play. Not sure why I did that. I had that feeling when I took this photo.

Seoul, South Korea.
Seoul, South Korea.

This one, I remember thinking how hands tell a lot about a person. I startled the man with the flash being so close (the camera was just next to his shoulder). He asked me why I took the photo and I told him simply what I had thought, hands tell a lot about about a person. He told me his father you used to tell him that when he was a kid. He is a 82 now.

Seoul, South Korea.
Seoul, South Korea.

There is an intimacy to using a small camera I completely miss with a bigger one. I remember buying a Leica with a 50mm lens because I liked that it allowed me to be a sort of voyeur. I could stand back and watch things. I don’t care much to photograph that way anymore. I want to be close. I want to be intimate.

Seoul, South Korea.
Man enjoying coffee at Gyonbok Gong coffee shop in Seoul, South Korea.
Seoul, South  Korea.
Gyunbok Gong coffee shop menu, Seoul, South Korea.

Photography has stopped becoming about the photos I take but more about the relationships I make. I’m basically a shy person. I think most photographers are. The camera is just a way to get close. Anders Petersen said something similar and I completely agree now. The camera is just a tool to get closer. A tool to explore myself.

Near Seoul, South Korea.
Near Seoul, South Korea.

Almost everything I’ve said I’ve heard one time or another listening to some of my favorite photographers. I’m surprised at how none of it really sank in. For years I’ve listened to Moriyama talk about how small cameras help him photograph his “feeling” in a way big ones couldn’t. To me, it is one of those things I thought people says. Artists, myself included, speak mostly bullshit. Half of everything I type is hollow. At least, so I thought. I don’t really think so anymore.

Maybe I finally fucking get it.

Seoul, South Korea.
Seoul, South Korea.

I suppose its funny it took a 9 year old camera I found under the seat of my Aunt’s car (where it had been through 2 winters) to show me the way.

Seoul, South Korea.

June 2014.

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To learn more about Josh, read my interview with him here.

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