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Photography isn’t just about the Photograph

There’s a line I hear photographers say all the time – the camera isn’t important, it’s just about the photograph. They say this line in the context of digital versus film photography. And, for me, it’s absolute rubbish. My connection to a photograph goes way beyond what a picture looks like as an aesthetic object. I’m not trying to make pretty pictures.

That saying is fine for somebody else, I guess. I just don’t like that phrase when it gets thrown around like a definitive truth – that all photographs are equal for all photographers regardless of context or connection. The reason photography retains social power is because it’s not at all just about the picture.

Photography is as many truths as there are photographers to make those pictures.

Photography is as much about the journey and the process as it is about the resulting artifact produced by using light to capture time and space.

Photography is, for me, just as much about a family connection from my maternal grandfather who was a professional large format studio photographer shooting glass plates through to my paternal grandmother who shot fifty years of amateur medium format film. These are not relationships of practice that I take lightly.

Photography is about the craft; the what, when, where, how and why that justify the making of something by my hand. My photography is about something that I haven’t properly defined yet; but it’s certainly greater than the artifacts.

So when somebody demeans my desire to shoot film as a photographic preference by saying it’s all about the final photograph, it’s annoying. If that’s the case, they should purchase a RED Camera and shoot everything as film to pull out a perfect digital frame. There, photography done. We can go home & drink wine.

Whereas my world of photography can be sporadic at times. I’ll never be a master. I just make pictures that mean something in my life. Very limited numbers. I constantly ask myself frame by frame “Why should this picture exist?”Yes, I shoot digital photography when I have to and for product and blog posts. That’s where the strength of digital lays – instant feedback, speed of production and the ability to reproduce on scale. But I shoot film.

I don’t shoot film to be quirky or cool, but because that’s my photography. The pictures that result at the end of that photography are merely the artifacts of a larger thing… Photography with a big P, I guess.

So when you tell me that it’s not about the cameras but about the end pictures, I cringe. It’s too simplistic. Almost escapist. It’s a saying that emanates from people trying to marry their separate photographies within an agreement to disagree. I can shoot absolute crap pictures and enjoy my photography. It’s not up to you to decide on my behalf.

Photography is about the sum total of an experience that results in the artifact. And I don’t particularly care if that’s true for anybody else.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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