For the past three years, I have been concentrating a lot on my photographic skills and learning more about photography in general. I learned a lot about the technical part (e.g. color management and printing), a lot more about life and how other people look at the world and particularly life itself. Somewhere on that road full of lessons, I kind of gradually started to lose something. That something was the exact reason why I started photography.
My skills advanced, I was pushing and taking the steps to go pro with photography. While even my equipment grew, my shooting rate dropped. Not only did it drop, I even put away most ideas and projects I was working on. I’ve encountered a lot along the way. And I know there are more to come, since I’m just getting started as a pro.
I didn’t know anymore what to photograph. I wasn’t enjoying it and I didn’t have real joy in the images I created anymore. Somewhere along the way I forgot how to go on adventure with the camera and discover the world through the lens. I was only focused on everything around the images except the content of images themselves. I wanted to control everything in my images, without realizing that actually I was losing control of it all. One thing I knew: I wasn’t enjoying the ride anymore.
Last year I was going on vacation. It was winter in the Netherlands and I was going to visit my parents on Curaçao. It was a two week stay and my girlfriend was also going to meet my parents. First I wasn’t planning on taking a lot of camera equipment with me, since I had no particular plan in mind. I was going to take some time off and try ( yes try) to enjoy the vacation.
That was well said: “I tried”. I still placed a last minute order for a bigger case to take some equipment with me. Unfortunately when the case arrived it was damaged and wasn’t suited to protect the equipment anymore. I had no time to return it. So I packed what I could anyway. I still ended up taking a battery pack, one studio flash head, one softbox, a bare reflector with grid set, a light stand, no clothes…..and least but not least; my lovely but hefty Mamiya RZ67 Pro IID. Yes an RZ67 on vacation! Why I took that camera is the subject of another blog post coming soon.
During the stay, unlike previous years, I didn’t take a lot of pictures. I didn’t bother either. But I still came up with a plan. I had an objective and it was accomplished at the end of our stay.
After two weeks of nearly begging I finally had the opportunity to photograph the people I love the most in this world for the first time ever. On the last night, after a long talk, I finally convinced my parents to let me portrait them. It took me some time, but it was done. As an extra the next day, while packing, my oldest brother came by and let me portrait him as well. I haven’t seen him for a while then, so that was like a big bonus. Some things in life you can’t control, you can’t force it, it just happens.
For the first time in a long time I really enjoyed taking pictures again. Happy like a little boy with a new toy. We had fun and a big laugh while I was setting up and during the sessions. I can notice now, that my parents are getting older and I am very glad I still have them in my life (and hope I do for many years to come).
These sessions reminded me again of the reason why I got started into photography at first. I wanted, more than anything, to immortalize people I love in the images I create. And I’m glad I finally did just that with my parents. I lost some loved ones before I could portrait them. I wish I did, regardless of the quality of the images. To me, the content of an image overpowers the technical quality of it. So I don’t care whether these pictures are technically correct whatsoever. Their content is of greater importance to me. It takes some effort to look into the image, rather than looking at it.
I’m rediscovering the joy I have when portraying people. Whether I know little or a lot about my subject, I want to immortalize them in an image and tell a little bit of their story. For those brief moments during the capturing session, I am in love with my subject. In most cases that love diminishes or is over as soon as the photo session ends. With others, that love is forever. No matter what happens; I’ll always love my mam and dad.
If I look back now, I’d say it was all part of maturing and stepping up the creative process. And photography……that’s like a love affair to me. Some days it works and some again it doesn’t, but I always end up being in love again.
Dennis M. Hooi