Last week at the Walk Through a Wedding workshop I attended, Justin & Mary talked a lot about The Why. Why they do what they do… why they became wedding photographers. And they encouraged us to think about Our Why. Not just why we are wedding photographers, but also why we take each photograph that we take. When we were shooting, Mary would sneak up behind us… “Why are you taking that photograph?” she would ask. She wanted you to look inward and figure out the motivation behind your business, your style… why you click the shutter when you do. We learned a LOT of technical stuff too, but The Why is just as important. And that’s what I found myself thinking about this morning.
Every once in a while it happens. I’ll meet someone new, and they’ll ask what I do for a living. “I’m a photographer,” I’ll say. “Ooooh, that’s so cool! What kind of photography?” “Wedding photography!” I’ll reply, “It’s awesome! I love it.” “Oh,” they will say, and change the subject. And I know what they’re thinking… “I thought you were an artist or something. You’re just a wedding photographer.” Luckily, this doesn’t happen very often, but I live in New York City… land of fashion photography and art galleries. So sometimes you come across someone who doesn’t think wedding photography is particularly interesting or important. And that’s fine, I don’t need them to. I love my job, and I know it actually is interesting and important.
No, it’s not, as Mary pointed out last week, heart surgery or rocket science, but it’s still important. And although I don’t take myself particularly seriously, I always take my job seriously. Photographs are a record of a life lived. They’re the record that you married, that you were loved… by your partner, by your friends and family. The record of the little moments, the little details that sometimes fall by the wayside in your memory, but come barreling back when you see a photograph. How often I have looked at photographs from my childhood, of a moment I had forgotten, that all of the sudden becomes so clear to me again after seeing a photograph. I remember. Photographs help you remember.
It’s a simple answer. It’s not complicated or deep or surprising. I am a photographer because I don’t ever want you to forget how you felt that day, in that moment, surrounded by so much joy. I wish it were a more interesting, less obvious answer, but there you go. I want to record that you were here… on this planet, at this time. That you were part of something, that you had a community around you, that you laughed and loved. Someday, a grandchild or great nephew will thumb through an album and come across your photograph, and they’ll know where they came from.
Photographs keep us connected to our past, to our parents and grandparents and great grandparents. I like being a part of that. I like knowing that your descendants will look through my photographs and see something of themselves in you. I’m not saving lives… I’m not discovering anything new. I’m a storyteller, a record keeper. It’s that simple. And that’s what keeps me going, gets me out of bed everyday, excited to get to work.