Not That Kind of Photographer

What’s in the frame of the photograph matters artistically, to be sure, but what’s outside the frame can destroy it. ~Philip Hyde

One of the most pervasive problems facing creative photographers, and especially those of us working with natural aesthetics, is that many assume we all do the same thing—spend our days in pursuit of anything photogenic, hoping to get lucky enough to “get the shot.”

Over the years I had to explain many times that my brand of photography is aimed at creative expression, rather than chasing after fortuitous phenomena. Also, I often have to explain that just because I’m a photographer, doesn’t mean I know, or care about, everything having to do with photography. I am not a commercial photographer or a stock photographer; I know little about photographing people or products or events; and I do not pursue “decisive moments” on city streets. With few exceptions, I have little interest in traveling to exotic places outside my home in the American West; and I am unable to offer much help with studio lighting, video, time lapse or other techniques I don’t use in my own work. Which is not to say I don’t enjoy such photography when done well by others.

These days, thankfully, most people interested in photography recognize that some of us specialize in particular styles and subject matter, and that there is more to being a photographer than having general expertise in operating photographic equipment or hopping from one “must see” place to another. Today, when I present myself to fellow photographers as an artist, or a fine-art photographer, most of them understand what my work is, and is not.

It is with great regret that on some recent occasions I felt the need to distinguish myself yet further from others who, like me, also work with natural subjects; and even from some who proclaim themselves to be artists. I am referring in particular to those photographers who consider “getting the shot” as their primary motivation, and who, in the course of their work, are willing to bend or break laws and regulations, disregard the sanctity of places and the dignity of people, shamelessly plagiarize the works of others for profit or bragging rights, operate commercially without required insurance or permits, lead clients to places where such guiding is prohibited, and compromise the experience of others. I am not that kind of photographer, either.

As I said in other times: if I need to compromise my experience, the experience of others, or the welfare of the places, life and things I photograph in order to “get the shot,” then to hell with the shot.

Winter Fairyland

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13 thoughts on “Not That Kind of Photographer

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  1. I agree 100%. I no longer use the word “shot”, it’s abhorrent to me. If someone asks me what I do, I am an independent artist. If they pursue further then I tell them i work in the medium of photography. Your work is art first and foremost, the medium in some ways is quite secondary.

  2. Indeed-as I get to the point where I wonder
    if I am able to get in the field, my interests
    are to photograph what speaks to me, if that is
    not too arrogant a statement; and now the problem
    is where to hang the result-either for free or a
    very modest price.

  3. Hello Guy,
    We met a few times when you spoke in Sedona and in Phoenix.

    I very much enjoy your photography and your writing and am really impressed with you as a person.

    Great artical you wrote.

  4. Guy, while I appreciate and agree with the written words, I can’t yet get past the image. It has an astonishing depth to it, and I can’t imagine it coming from any other photographer.

  5. Goodmorning, Good afternoon, And good evening where ever you may be. It is with solemn and humble Thankfulness that I agree one hundred percent. Very well said and so many times I have been in situations where I wish I had a printout or hand out with this. I think this will really stop most people in their tracks and make them take stock of what is here. I run into so many people that just do most if not all of what is mentioned in your post. I learned over the years to be first Thankful for the many true gifts that God has given us or creator has given us to share and show the Beauty of this wonderful place with others. If We can inspire and or lift one spirit by sharing these gifts through the tools in which we are given then what an awesome place we will have for many many years to come. Keep passing your Knowledge and grace to others. Thank you for all you do.

  6. Well said, Guy. And lovely image, too. I am one of those photographers who, early on, made a choice to make my living full time in photography, but back then (you don’t want to know how long that was!) everyone said ‘you can’t make a living from nature/landscape photography’, and I panicked, as that was my plan. I took to photographing everything – and I do mean everything – from setups for Foster Freeze to corporate portraits to annual reports and editorial projects for magazines, and I survived – even thrived – but my soul was not full. I would spend all my spare time and spare change getting up into the mountains of Colorado to fill my lungs and soul with fresh air and ideas, and connect with the beauty around me. It was the only way I could keep doing the other stuff. One day, I ‘woke’ up; and I said ‘self, you are going after what you wanted to do all along, to hell with the other types of photography. You’re going to pursue your dream and not look back.’ And that’s what I did, essentially starting over, and finding a way to make the landscape/nature (and travel, because I love to travel) photography my focus, no pun intended. I had things a little differently in that I still had to make a living, and replacing the commercial work with nature ‘work’ was difficult but I stayed the course, and I’m still here. My story is different than yours, but my passion for nature is what has driven me all through the many years of my career, and I’m grateful for it. AND, grateful to you for sharing your deep thoughts and philosophical insights to make us all think about things a little differently. Your words and your images touch the heartstrings of many, so keep on, friend!

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