Photography And The Search For Identity

Mist swirling around peaks of stone on Huangshan (i.e., Yellow Mountain), China.

We all make photographs, but the reason why we photograph varies depending on our objectives. The relationship between photography and the search for identity is at the heart of the artists journey.

Most folk make photos as a way of documenting an event in which they are observing or participating (e.g., birthday, holiday, interesting object or location, concert, sporting event, etc).

The image making process is, for many, a process that starts in camera and finishes on the desktop. For others the process finds completion, as it did in days gone by, in a printed photograph.


The look of a life very much lived in the eyes of this dignified man in Chennai, India


Striving To Make Ever Better Photos

However, enthusiast and professional photographers are rarely happy with a straightforward record of the event.

They work hard to understand and utilize technology, light, design and psychology (e.g., working with people) to obtain a higher quality, more pleasing rendition of the scene or subject depicted.

A porter, loaded with goods, walks a windy and exposed path on Huangshan (i.e., Yellow Mountain), China.

The Photojournalist and Documentary Photographer

Artists tend to take one of two different approaches. They use photography to comment on and/or ask questions about the world in which we live.

Social injustice, poverty, freedom of expression and environmental issues are examples of such areas of concern.

Some photojournalists and documentary photographers use the term the Human Condition to describe the area with which their work is primarily concerned. 

A detailed view of a contemplative study of the Buddha's face in this stone statue in rural Thailand.

The Fine Art Photographer

Alternatively artists tend to be drawn to particular subject matter and processes as a way of exploring that which exists beyond appearances, beyond logic and beyond explanation.

For some the act of creating the artwork is spiritually based.

Photography, as a bridge between science and magic, is the vehicle by which these endeavors can be realized.

A mountain peak, bathed in warm light, is framed by ice encrusted trees on the spectacular Huangshan (i.e., Yellow Mountain) in China.

Discovering Your Identity Through Photography

Of course the differences between one type of photographer and another is not always as simple as I’ve outlined above.

Lines of demarcation blur and many find, depending on the day, the customer and the outcome, that they have a foot in more than one camp.

No matter where you fit it’s a good idea to sit back, every now and again, and ask yourself where and how photography fits into your own life.

The stronger your reason for photographing the more likely you are to make photography an ever more important part of your life. With a camera that’s both available and easy to use you’ll be better able to practice your craft, even on the busiest of days.

This can only serve to open and expand your creative nature. You’ll be more in touch with the person you really are, beyond the labels of job, relationship, gender and social status.

Photography breaks down all manner of barriers, including those we build around ourselves.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru