Before the Internet, photographers often went a lifetime without their work being recognized. Every so often, a great picture would become known throughout the country, and even the world, but these images were few and far between. They were most often related to significant news events. A few photographers, like Ansel Adams, gained popularity but again, these were few in number. Today, photographers can put up a website and share their work with the world. In a matter of hours, millions of people can have access to a, particularly beautiful image. This can be a good thing in many ways, but it can also create problems.
One of the problems is that a picture may become known while the photographer remains hungry and unrecognized for the work and talent that went into the image. Adding to this problem is the fact that, today, anyone with a smartphone has access to the ability to snap a picture. This makes it difficult for people to realize there is a big difference between a simple snapshot and a piece of photographic art.
If you look at the majority of photographs that get shared the most, they may appear so different. You see cute animals with babies, or beautiful landscapes or an exciting street scene; they all have something in common, however. A great photograph evokes emotion! The photographer takes an object or looks at a view and feels something. It is his goal to share that emotion with those who see the photo. A photographer has taken the time to fully grasp the situation and look for the best way to allow others to feel precisely what she felt. Think about the photos that have withstood the test of time. We all have seen one of the soldier kissing a nurse at the end of WWII. We feel the celebration. The photo of a child screaming in terror as she runs naked from the bomb that just exploded tugs at our hearts, and we feel her terror. In these cases, the photographer got credit. We may not readily be able to credit him, but a quick search and we have a name.
Other photos are as powerful. Consider the one of the homeless man holding his coat tightly around him. At his feet, his faithful dog is covered with a blanket. Most often, we don’t know who took that photo, but we do see the soul of the photographer. We see the photographer’s compassion, the tugging at his heart this scene created. We know it because he waited for the right expression, a ray of sunlight light to fall on the pair. The photographer must have waited long for the perfect moment to share the emotion. Shouldn’t we be able to thank him?
The Photographer’s Reality
Great photographs don’t just happen. A famous photographer was once quoted as saying that for every image he shared with the world, there were 199 that were seen by nobody but himself. This is still true today. For every photograph that captures the heart of millions, there were at least another couple of hundred that the photographer felt weren’t good enough. Maybe the image was a bit blurry, the lighting angle just slightly off, or the feeling not quite what it was meant to be. To some, the rejected images may appear beautiful, but to the photographer, “fine” isn’t an option.
A photographer will silently wait for the right moment, even if it takes hours. She’ll wait for the Sun to be at a position where the combination of shadows and light play out a dance of sorts, making the intended subject come alive. He’ll crouch hidden among jungle foliage, waiting for his subject to come to a watering hole, and will wait even longer for the subject to be in a position where its true beauty is revealed. He’ll fell the frustration and disappointment over and over again when the subject moves or doesn’t cooperate. Yet, he’ll return again tomorrow and do it all over again in the hope that today he’ll get what he seeks.
A photographer will sometimes put himself in physical danger to capture something from an angle that makes it come alive more. She’ll climb mountains, lean over railings, or wander too close to a wild animal. All this is done without thinking about personal danger. What is being considered about is capturing the magnificence he sees to share with others.
A photographer is vulnerable. When you see his final piece, you are gifted with the ability to look at the world from inside his soul. You see life and the world as she sees it. Every photographer puts himself into every image he shares. What more fabulous gift can you present to someone than a little piece of yourself?
Why This Matters
Today, sharing images is easy. When you share an image that has come into existence after hours, or days, of thought, risk, and self-exposure, you tell the photographer his work is great, but he is nothing. You devalue his work and him. You may also be taking from him the ability to live and give more of his work. Many photographers make this their livelihood. If their work doesn’t sell, they don’t eat. Their family doesn’t have a decent home, their kids go hungry. You take from the photographer the very things that you take it for granted every day. Again, you devalue the photographer and all the work that has gone into that image.
What You Can Do
If you find an image that moves you, know that somewhere a photographer has taken time to create that feeling, and by putting it out there, possibly on his own website, he is expressing his wish to share a piece of himself with you. If you would like to share that image, reach out to the photographer and ask. Let her know how much it moved you and why you want to share.
Sometimes the artist may ask for payment. After all, remember he and his family need to eat. Other times, you may be surprised, and the photographer may only ask that you acknowledge her as the one who created the work of art (Yes, photography is an art!). Think about being in the same position. How would you feel if you were the one who created this image? Many photographers have faded from public view because of this. In the end, we all suffer, for we end up losing the chance to see the world from the photographer’s soul.