When I started photographing as a child, I photographed like a child would-unencumbered by thoughts of the story I was trying to tell or why I was taking pictures. It was the total creative freedom that youth provides us and we (at least I) spent a majority of the following years squashing into an undefined mush that included self-doubt and thoughts of inadequacy.
Years past and I began taking photography classes which led me to connect with The Southern Vernacular photographer, Rick Lang. Through his mentorship, I was encouraged to shoot often and discover my photography voice. This also included having an understanding of historic photographers and their work. It was during these influential-photography years that I found the what and why of my photography. I believe that most photographers seek to have a project that they can put all their talent into and feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from intently working to create something. Their subject all the more inspired from their connection.
For me, and I do believe for most, we attempt to tackle a creative project as if it is work: “Why” I work on a project dictates “What” you are working on at any given moment. For most creatives the process is reversed you create to gain insight into why you create.You create “What” to find your “Why”.
I would encourage all photographers that are still looking for their voice to do the same. Find your what, that subject that you find appears and reappears in your photographs. For me, it was roadside scenes, such as hand-painted signs, small motels, and storefronts. Parts of the whole that make up the ever-changing landscape of my native Florida.
I BELIEVE FOR MOST CREATIVES THE PROCESS IS REVERSED, YOU CREATE TO GAIN INSIGHT INTO WHY YOU CREATE.
It was only after finding my subject matter(What) that I was able to ask that important question-“Why?” The fully-formed idea of my inspiration came over the course of six months. Time spent looking at the work I had created eighteen months earlier. Printing the work gave me additional insight as well as standing back to rediscover. I mean, after all photography is all about perspective.
My inspiration (Why) came from my childhood. I grew up in a modest and close-knitted family. My adoration for my father grew with time and perspective. He was breadwinner of a five-person household. Moving to Florida a year before I was born, he took a job as an intrastate truck driver. He drove a semi-truck five days a week on runs that would take him from south Florida to the Panhandle. He loved driving and our family trips were always traveled by car or van. His affection for the open road was matched by his delight of wandering off-route and discovering the smaller communities where he felt an authentic American experience was…..just around the bend up there.
In many ways, my father’s wanderings instilled a love of exploration in me. A love that translated behind the lens. But it wasn’t only getting off the interstate and exploring the area, it also became a reflection of my childhood. I seek out elements of tourist traps, small motels, neighborhood bowling alleys, and other roadside scenes that remind me of my youth and those family road trips. Hoping that those of a certain number of years can find memories of their own.
How you connect with your photography is what makes you different, the sole author of the story you share with others. I believe you find that connection by shooting often and without a roadmap or destination in mind. Be you and your story in your photographs will emerge.