Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Resolution: I am a Photojournalist

Milwaukee River

I am not an artist.  Despite the fact that photography is considered an art form, and is my passion, I need to stop striving to consider my work as art.  My work would be considered photojournalism, and I have finally come to terms with that fact. 

You might think, that's obvious.  This is a blog after all, the hobbyist version of a news publication.  And it's a blog about tourist spots around my part of Wisconsin.  Automatically that makes it photojournalism.  But, and I think you might agree with me, all photographers want their work to be elevated to art, despite the fact that art is subjective.  In 2015, I struggled with the fact that I didn't think my photography would never be featured in a gallery or sold at the Lakefront Festival of the Arts.  I struggled with the fact that my photographs were simply "snapshots".

The word "snapshot" has become a bit of a dirty word in photography.  It has come to mean a photo that anyone with a cell phone can take, even though the software on some of these phones can turn any photo taken into art.  But, what makes a picture taken with your fancy camera (or your phone) into a "photograph"?  According to David Peterson, who wrote on Digital Photo Secrets, photography "should have some quality that makes the viewer either feel an emotion or think about a concept."  And I think that's the best way to put it.  A photograph, as art, should be something not normally seen (like with street photography) and/or makes you go "Wow!" (like a great landscape). 

Community United Methodist Church, Elm Grove, Wisconsin

Great photojournalism can do this as well.  In fact, the greatest influence in my photography has been old issues of Life magazine.  When I was in middle school, my mother bought a copy of Life's 50th anniversary edition, over a thousand pages of photographs from the magazine's history that featured the greats such as Margaret Bourke-White, Gordon Parks and Robert Capa among others.  I poured over those photographs for hours, over and over again.  But, everyday photojournalism informs more often than it inspires.  In fact, photojournalism is supposed to be just a snapshot.  Photographers who work for the Associated Press cannot manipulate or stage their photos for ethical reasons, a topic that made news last year.

I'm happy to consider myself a photojournalist.  I like informing people, through my photos, of great places, fun events, and the beautiful areas I get to visit week after week.  Are they snapshots?  A resounding "Yes!"  My goal is to see my work in magazines, both online and in print, not hung on a wall.  That makes me a photojournalist.  My resolution for 2016 is to embrace this label and stop worrying if I will ever be an artist. 

Old World Wisconsin

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