I get more questions via email and social channels than I could answer in a lifetime, but occasionally one jumps out at me as incredibly worthwhile to share. The answer to this question is important, and my response is below. Chime in and let me know what you think:
“What’s more important as a photographer… to remove yourself from the photograph, or to make the photograph about you as a photographer?”
-from photographer Jay McLaughlin
In order to make the most successful, effective (read: insightful, moving, impactful, beautiful, etc) image, the photographer must be “present” in the image. Simply put, this is crucial–perhaps MOST important for any shooter– you should strive to make a photograph that no one else in the world can make. And the primary mode of being able to do this is to infuse your personal vision to the image. Period, whether it’s reportage, fine art, or a fashion shoot. Doing otherwise is creating a commodity – something that anyone, or an “other” can make– that can be bought or sold like a pork belly or a barrel of oil.
Making such a photo that no one else can make can take many forms–technical excellence is a part of that–but at it’s essence is the need to reflect a mood that only you can capture or evoke, based on your access, your knowledge, your interpersonal skills or otherwise. So you absolutely must put your fingerprints on the shot. It’s not “about” you (sic), but you are clearly present…
Thanks Jay for the evocative question. Readers please chime in below if you feel inspired, otherwise go make that photo that no one else can make.