Why Do You Photograph?

Not long ago, I have come across a striking and a thought provoking meditation by Guy Tal on why we photograph. I have been following and admiring Guy's work and story for many years. I mention the story on purpose as it chiefly exceeds his photography. Together with Guy's writing, it is perhaps the truest and the most elegant photography career out there since it fully blends with the artist's life, to put it much rougher than what it deserves.

I encourage you to read the entire text - it is full of intriguing ideas and in some short fashion, it gives you an ample idea why Guy's fascinating work inspires so many people:

"The inspiration I refer to and that I feel here is not just a general desire to create, but an intense and intoxicating (at times to the point of being emotionally overwhelming) sense of vitality."

Caption: Walking on Glass, Camera: Nikon D810, Lens: Nikkor 16-35mm, Exposure: 164s, Aperture: f/16, ISO: 64, Filters: Lee Big Stopper & Lee Graduated ND 0.6, Photographed: Baikal Lake, Siberia, Russia, March 2016

Caption: Walking on Glass, Camera: Nikon D810, Lens: Nikkor 16-35mm, Exposure: 164s, Aperture: f/16, ISO: 64, Filters: Lee Big Stopper & Lee Graduated ND 0.6, Photographed: Baikal Lake, Siberia, Russia, March 2016

The article triggers my response as well, although no answer is right at all times. It has been changing over years or months, or even by places I went to. Nowadays, when I feel more mature and settled in life I much more appreciate a genuine experience of the process rather than illusory and relative effects of the results.

For those of us who practice photography as a hobby, no matter how serious, alongside a professional career in another field and alongside family affairs that can get pretty busy, the moments of free time to make images are greatly precious. (The reasons why I chose this life and not another are outside of the scope of this post, but I guess I will stick to it while I feel that I'm remaining true to myself at work and until my children get grown as good people...)

The mere inspiration takes off when dreaming (planning if you wish) where to go next - trip, day or morning. Continued by an untroubled ritual of being out, an act of looking, of seeing, of setting up, then waiting, triggering, downloading, sorting, post-processing, re-thinking, returning. 

Looking, seeing, setting up all over again... The repeating routine that is the most pleasing and satisfying of all routines as its elemental content never repeats. :-)

Caption: Walking on Broken Glass, Camera: Linhof Techno, Lens: Rodenstock 23mm, Exposure: 1/4s, Aperture: f/11, ISO: 100, Filters: Lee Graduated ND 0.45, Photographed: Baikal Lake, Siberia, Russia, March 2016

Caption: Walking on Broken Glass, Camera: Linhof Techno, Lens: Rodenstock 23mm, Exposure: 1/4s, Aperture: f/11, ISO: 100, Filters: Lee Graduated ND 0.45, Photographed: Baikal Lake, Siberia, Russia, March 2016

It is the whole process of creating photographs and not so much the photographs themselves that blows me away. As if anything in one's existence that is different from ordinary and that goes beyond bare necessities of life, it has a beneficial effect on all vital functions and human senses. It feels as if the process creates a simulation in my brain that allows me to be someone else (schizophrenic?), placed in a completely different universe, in a dissimilar spell where the time is a non-present dimension. I operate out of any relation to what I do otherwise, and I'm always coming back to reality freshened and recreated.

An accidental experience out there is everything I need to function here.

In my ordinary life, I'm surrounded by a visual smog of large cities and modern office buildings; by the noise of airplanes, traffic and... yes, people. I deliberately choose places to photograph that are visually empty and noise-free. And cold, ideally, as it embraces a solitude. Mountains and forests when I'm in Czech or Slovakia. Iceland, Norway, Scotland when I can travel.

Last year in March, I went to see Baikal. I developed a severe passion for the place that calls for a return now as a part of the above process. Going there next week for my annual dose of inspiration.

Why do you photograph?