Most professional photographers take portraits or, at least, pictures with people. If you’ve been following me for any time, you know that my slideshows rarely have any people in them. Wedding and portrait photography are the easiest and most common way to make money as a photographer. Since I am retired and photography is a creative release rather than a financial path, I am not driven to be commercial and am free to choose the subjects that I want. Still, the vast majority of all pictures taken have human subjects. Obviously, people like to take and look at pictures of people! So, why do I avoid such a popular subject matter? Here are my top five reasons.
Reason #1: I don’t like subjects that talk.
I am an engineer (OK, a nerd). I am comfortable with my emotions – I love to cuddle and other forms of touch and I even cry in public – but I am usually uncomfortable talking about them. To take a good portrait usually involves some emotional connection with the subject, which probably will involve talking. Too much work!
Reason #2: No feedback.
When you take a picture of a human, they will evaluate how you made them look. When I take a picture of a flower, I never hear: “You made one of my petals look bigger than the rest.” Or “You made my stem look gangly!” or “You can’t let anyone see THAT!” When my subject isn’t human, I get to decide what images will be shown to the public. I think that’s only fair, since it is my artwork.
Reason #3: Humans are too egotistical anyway.
Most humans think they are the center of the Universe and being the subject of a photograph just reinforces that belief. It is hard to put people in a picture and NOT make them the center of attention for the people who look at the picture; we are all drawn to our own species! I’m certainly not saying that we shouldn’t be interested in the human race or other humans; many of my best friends are human (even though I’m a nerd)! But we all need to get a bigger perspective of the environment in which we live. So, I choose not to encourage these narcissistic tendencies by photographing other humans (unless they are grandchildren)!
Reason #4: We need to be reminded of the awe and wonder of nature.
Many of us tend to spend a lot of our time indoors, away from the natural world. Our environment is man-made and reflects the ideals of our species exclusively. By stepping into nature, we are forced to experience a world we don’t control and may not understand very well. This can be a source of wisdom we have forgotten and a return to the peace that comes from harmony with our surroundings. We can learn more about who we are in the contrast with other species and the opportunity to reconnect with something larger than ourselves.
Reason #5: I want to expose people to new possibilities.
By taking pictures of the natural world or of distant locations, even man-made ones, I encourage the viewer to be inspired to be curious again. We were all born to explore our surroundings and learn how things work. As we matured, we may have gotten into a “comfort zone”, using existing skills and knowledge in a limited, safe environment to survive. But to truly thrive in life, we need to always be open to new opportunities for learning and adventure. If I can encourage someone to travel and explore a new location or even plant a new flower in their garden, I have added something new into their experience and who knows what “ripple effect” that small step may have in expanding their life?
Conclusion: We should be good stewards.
So now you know why I am a nature photographer. I hope my landscapes and flower pictures will add some joy, awe, and wonder to your lives and, possibly, cause you to get out of your “comfort zone” to explore more of the world. I believe we are meant to be stewards of the natural world. But it is impossible to be a good steward of subjects we don’t understand and don’t respect. The more you understand your role and connection to all of life, the better you will understand yourself. And that’s what it’s all about!