Awhile back, Shera and I talked about taking photos around our hometowns of Bozeman, MT and Ontario, OR to try to bring together the memories of our childhood with our new endeavors in photography. Shera’s Bozeman photos can be found here, here, and here. And a few weeks ago, I finally made it back to Ontario:
Unfortunately, I had only an hour or so of dedicated shooting around town. While there’s certainly not a lot of ground to cover in Ontario, I would’ve rather spent a few days visiting familiar areas and memorable places. I also learned an important lesson about how I’ve been approaching photography. As I’ve been practicing, I’ve mostly been shooting at whatever might make a “good” photo – bright colors, interesting patterns and shapes, landmarks, fascinating subjects, and essentially anything that might draw the attention of viewers. While practicing this way might have given me some aesthetically pleasing, well-composed photos, I realized that I’ve ended up with a lot of shallow, generic photos, too.
This photo shoot in Ontario is a perfect example of this practice. I meant to capture images of my hometown and the thoughts, feelings, and memories that come with it. But because I was so caught up in finding “interesting” things to photograph, I ended up spending most of my time photographing parts of town that I had barely even seen in my 11 years of living in Ontario. Most of these photos had almost nothing to do with the stories and memories that I was hoping to convey.
A photo is more than just composition, lighting, depth of field, and color. While these aspects are certainly important, what really makes a photo compelling is the story, the emotions, or the messages behind that photo, however simple or complex. I think the lesson that I learned from Ontario is that the “why” in my photography needs to become more influential than just the aesthetics of the “what”. I’ve been so focused on improving my ability to make a photograph that I haven’t really paid much attention to the ideas behind my photographs. I also think that the “idea” of a photo might be the most difficult part to capture – it’s hurting my head just trying to figure out how to write about it – but that’s what I’ll be focusing on in my upcoming projects.
Some of my photos do portray the culture and the town that I remember.