Photography for Life

I just finished an online class that was taught by photographer Annie Liebovitz. She really opened up my eyes to seeing photography and the world in different ways. 

Goody Claus wants to make
all dreams come true, but
my dream of footlights
and and life on the stage
did not happen.

Photography was never my passion. Once, long ago, I wanted to be an actress. It was my hope and my dream. The stage was my magic place, where stories came to life, with color and shiny things. It was a storybook that was transformed into something life size and better than real. It was also the place where a shy person could become someone else, even if for a short time. I loved my time on the stage. It was fun and it was special, and it took me outside of myself. It took me away from the shy kid that I once was. I truly didn’t feel comfortable just being me. I wanted to become someone else, and, on stage, I could do exactly that. When I was in college, I was determined to make acting into my career. It only took about two semesters for me to realize that acting would never be my career.

I learned that I could be as funny as heck and that I could be the best character actress but, unless I was tall and gorgeous, the chances that I would be a professional were close to zero.

I didn’t believe that I would ever be gorgeous and I knew for sure that I would never be tall (well, maybe with stilts, I could be tall).

So I decided to go for journalism. I had my choice between print journalism and broadcast journalism. With broadcast journalism, I faced the same dilemma that I did with acting. There was, once again, that tall and gorgeous thing that wasn’t happening for me. 

I decided to be a newspaper reporter and, so, I did that. It has been a fun and interesting career, though far from lucrative. And, along the way, I discovered photography.  I had to take photographs to go with my stories. Before long, I discovered a great joy in photography. I started carrying my camera everywhere because I was sure that I would see something interesting to photograph. But was I doing photojournalism or was it something else?

Annie Liebovitz talked about doing personal reportage, rather than journalism. That turned into a “lightbulb moment” for me. 

I will admit that, as much as I like doing journalism, it is kind of impersonal. A journalist has to be objective. But, when I am out and about, taking pictures and documenting my world, it’s not objective. It’s very personal. It is my story that I am conveying. Annie Liebovitz advises to “learn to trust what you see and tell the story in a way that means something to you.” Because story is what it’s all about.

It’s the story of the subject and it’s the story of the photographer and it doesn’t have to be limited by the concept of objectivity. It is a way of seeing, a way of exploring the world, and a way of being part of the world. And it was new and different and exciting for me to do that and to experience it.

Annie Liebovitz also said that, when you decide to BE a photographer, as opposed to just DOING photography, it is an entirely different experience.

Somewhere along the line, I made the decision to put more effort into my photography and to take the next step and to say, “Yes, I am a photographer.” Thousands of images later, I think that I am ready for that step. I’m ready for that entirely different experience. I can be that photographer, and I can be that artist. It is amazing, the experience of learning to see the world, of learning to find interest out of things that, formerly, I would have seen as ordinary. It means that my passion can be anywhere, as long as I have a camera and a sketchbook and a pencil.

I feel that I have grown from that kid who had starry eyes every time she saw a stage. The theater will always be my magic place, but my passion now is everywhere.

It’s in the forest and it’s in the city and it’s along the river, and it’s just about anywhere that I can be, with my camera, just waiting for that image that I seek. I am so grateful to Annie Liebovitz for showing me that I can reach outside of myself and see the world in entirely new ways through the lens of a camera.

3 thoughts on “Photography for Life”

  1. What a beautiful piece. I believe that passions aren't found – they are grown. From what you described, the transition from occupation to artistry sounds so powerful in the way it becomes part of your identity. I'm still working on being able to call myself a writer… Ah well. Maybe in time.

  2. Where do you want to go today?

    I have just read Jen Brice's post on writing from the heart. It has me thinking about my photos and if they are showing my heart. I think I may be developing a style in the way I edit the pictures in preparing them for the web.
    Sometimes it starts off as a desire to learn how to use the tools, the camera, the computer, the editing software, the blogging software. Isn't it all a challenge. Then it becomes a chore to do it every day.
    That is the discipline training. Thanks for the new perspective on taking pictures and being creative with it.
    Blog on!

  3. Alice, I am so glad you decided on personal reportage – your posts bring your wonderful voice into so many things I had not know about before – people who inspire, places I need to see, and things that make me smile and want to create more..

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