Changing the Lens

Photo courtesy Julia Dima

Photo courtesy- Julia Dima

Having a camera can open a world of opportunities.

The advancement of modern technology today has given anyone with a camera or any other accessory with that feature a reasonable excuse for being a photographer. With print no longer being the only medium to publish photos, one does not have to do much to have their images seen all over the world. As a result, persons who intend to make a lucrative career in photography have to produce an image that is either controversial or contains a rare perspective to hit the magazine covers and headlines in order to receive a return on their investment. Although there is nothing entirely wrong with this concept, the photography industry has become more of a money-making machine than a self-educational tool over the years.

This can be seen as an insult to pioneers of photography such as the great Ansel Adams who spent most of his career developing a unique light metering system to aid in his photography. This system was used with his black & white film cameras which enabled him to produce famous photographs such as “Moonrise, New Mexico” (1941) and “Rose and Driftwood, San Francisco, California” (1932). Adams’ work allowed him to develop a great understanding of the outdoors and led him to get involved in wildlife conservation efforts. His approach to photography was to thoroughly educate himself about his subject while making a considerable effort to protect it.

Today, anyone with an inexpensive digital camera and an automatic setting can produce images that are comparable to Adams’. However the main difference is that Adams’ work changed him as an individual before they changed others.

The world of photography should be thought of as a library and a camera as a library card. The camera gains access to a large pool of resources in so many places that, if used correctly, can make its user very wealthy not in terms of dollars but in knowledge acquired. A photograph should be thought of as a book receipt that provides proof of the photographer’s access and application of knowledge about their subject and setting. Each receipt that one acquires should progressively increase in value. Knowledge gained from a previous photo should be used as a stepping stone for the next one to be taken. This method gives the photographer a greater appreciation of their environment and also builds a closer relationship with his or her subject.

Finding the ideal subject, angle, lighting and time of day for an assignment solely depends on the photographer’s commitment to the task in doing research and obtaining the appropriate background information before going into the field. True photographers should think of themselves as the subject so that they can clearly and effectively portray the image to others. However, the only way this can be done is if all stereotypes and prejudices are left behind while beginning the task with an open mind.  Photographers have to be willing for their photograph to change themselves before they change the world.

As a result, the most notable photographers to date are those that have specialized in a certain discipline such as Ansel Adams in landscape photography and Steve McCurry in photojournalism. These photographers committed most of their lives to educating themselves to better understand their subjects, which gave more meaning to the photos they produced.

As the world continues to marvel at their work and will continue to do so for years to come, it is evident that the trait of a great photographer is not one that solely depends on the technology and a little luck to make a fortune. Great photographers ultimately become conservationists, scientists, or activists for a certain cause in their heart, and photographers who wield their photography to convey ideals in the most simplistic form of communication known to mankind.

I recently received the position as visual editor at the University of Regina campus newspaper, The Carillon. As a result i’m required to write one editorial per semester and is my first. The cartoon is provided courtesy of Julia Dima, Production Manager, The Carillon. The published article can be viewed here.

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One Comment on “Changing the Lens

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