I have been practicing photography for around five years now. During these last five years, I have become a better photographer, but I would say that when it comes to creating meaningful art, I have only just begun. While images don’t have to be meaningful, I do find that having a purpose behind pressing the shutter makes the process more fulfilling.
Whenever starting to learn a medium of art, there is usually a lacking inability to express something. Everyone has a story or something to say, but nobody is born a natural storyteller. The act of communicating something meaningful is a skill in and of itself within whatever the medium is it writing, drawing, film, or still images. I took a good 3 years before I was fully comfortable with the technical aspects of photography, and I am still learning many of the finer details of the craft today. We never should stop learning after all!
After we learn to speak as children the things we have to say aren’t all that insightful. It is typically very straightforward what we are communicating. As we grow and become more sophisticated there are more things we are able to talk about. Perhaps it is an abstract topic to convey or a directed statement at something specific. The act of learning to speak and communicate in English is directly translatable to photography and learning this two-dimensional language.
Whatever purpose you would like to have in photography it is good to speak it with your shutter. Composing images of things in a way that communicates the mood and story you desire is a skill in and of itself. Learning from those who came before us is a great way of figuring out what speaks to you. I believe the best communicators in art like Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, etc… were able to tell such compelling things in their art because of a great technical understanding combined with being purposeful with every piece.
What is your voice? How do you stand out in a crowded field that is becoming ever noisier? These are things to think about because there aren’t many who are held up by just technical excellence. Why are you taking the images that you take? Looking for what draws you into the subjects of your photography might shed some light on your own purpose. If you like seascapes, there is a good reason for you to be active in helping to protect the oceans either from pollution, global warming, or overfishing. A person photographing woodlands might be able to put an objective in wildfire prevention or encouraging leave no trace. There are plenty of examples of purpose to put behind our landscape photography.
Don’t just be a guy/girl with a camera. Being well versed in the issues in the community and the locations we are in can be helpful. This isn’t something easy to convey in our art, but when in person we should be able to talk about more than just the images we take. Just being a photographer is very one-dimensional and boring to anyone that isn’t interested in the technical side of photography. Being able to talk about the landscapes we love and in what ways they are threatened by society, climate change, and government policies is important in establishing purpose.
Use your voice and project what is important. Have a purpose behind the images you take and tell stories that bring awareness to your cause. Just creating beautiful images is a very empty existence as an artist. We all crave substance as consumers of art and a great way of providing that as the artist is having a purpose behind the imagery you present.