Respect your subject

Sometimes the continuous drive to take photographs creates an incongruity: we are so focused on photographing the subject that we don’t actually see the subject.

What I mean to say is this. We see something that attracts the eye. It is photogenic and we want to capture it. We take a shot, or rattle off a dozen or so, and then move on. A moment in time captured, our job as a “photographer” is done. However, have we made the most of the opportunity? Have we understood what attracted us, to begin with? Have we given the subject its due regard and full respect? Have we seen the subject in fullness?

If the subject is a human or any other animal or plant, this disregard can actually create harm. Photographing that crouching tinsmith working in a niche on a side street without contact or acknowledgment or even a nodded thank-you disrespects the subject and the community. If getting the best angle to photograph an orchid result in the trampling or uprooting of other plants nearby, it destroys the ecological community that created it and perhaps eventually the subject itself. If getting that photograph of fledglings in a nest means you have pulled back or snapped branches that conceal the nest from predators, you have endangered the subject. If getting the shot of a rare fish eagle catching fish means you injected a live fish with air, or that you stuffed their mouths with styrofoam to make them float  is not only disrespectful to the subject, it may actually kill it. If you use bait to attract wolves you are not only disdainful of the wildness of your subject, your behavior can lead to them being shot because they have become a public nuisance.

And while this can seem harmless to inanimate objects, not respecting your subject for the sake of a few ‘likes’ means you have not given your subject it’s due regard. A quick photograph taken of a famous artwork is not the same as a thoughtful examination of  the actual piece, paying attention to the texture of the brushstrokes, the choice of colors, the play of light , the illusion of depth and the overall composition. Without paying full attention to your subject, without seeing it as a mere ornament for a two-dimensional image, you are also disrespecting yourself. You are not as involved with the subject as you could be, and without that awareness, how can you take the most meaningful image?  Being involved with the subject and its environment, understanding all the elements that come together to make this scene photogenic can make you a better person and a better photographer.

The best photographers have a passion for their subject, a curiosity, and deference that leads to understanding. This can take time. This knowledge means that there will be moments when the photographer recognizes that the image if taken, can never be shared. The discriminating photographer will sometimes put the camera down, recognizing that in certain cases, the best image is not the one taken with the camera, but the one captured only in the mind.

This entry was posted in Abstract, Contemplation, Photography, Winter and tagged , , , , .