It's worth discovering why you do what you do.
November 11, 2011

Petronas Towers from Hotel Maya
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
October 1, 2011

Just yesterday I wrote a short essay titled ďStuff HappensĒ. As I was writing the last paragraph it occurred to me that my life might be a bit easier if my photographic interests extended to subjects that are more abundant and more easily accessed. At the very least I'd make more photographs. That in turn made me wonder why my photographic interests have always been so narrow. I have easy access to agricultural, suburban, urban, and heavy industrial environments that offer loads subject matter. I find myself in the city quite often because I love going to museums, concerts, musicals, great restaurants of diverse ethnicity, and loads of other things that are found only there. I enjoy looking at all sorts of photographs, not just the kind I capture. Among those I have a special attraction to images of abandoned urban and industrial areas, and those are within easy reach too. (Note: If you have the chance, see the Detroit Disassembled exhibit by Andrew Moore, or Google it.) But in spite of all this I have little desire to create images like this myself. Iíve definitely thought about making such images, but when I do it seems like a chore. When I think about photographing natural landscapes and wildlife it seems like anything but a chore, even though it sometimes turns out to be exactly that.
In spite of the abundance and accessibility of its subject matter I have captured very few urban photographs in my life. All but two were captured because they had to be and there was no one else around with a camera to do it. The first one I captured somewhat by my own choice is the image of Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur that appears with this essay. It was photographed from our hotel room a about six weeks before this writing, more because I felt obligated than because I felt inspired. That doesnít mean I donít think itís a remarkable building. On the contrary itís quite impressive, but there are lots of impressive things I don't care to photograph. This photograph actually happened because the 1483 foot tall world landmark had been sitting outside our window for two days, my wife was elsewhere getting her hair done, and Iíd already seen the episode of Myth Busters that was playing on TV. With no excuse to avoid taking the picture, I did what I think virtually anyone, photographer or not, would have done.
In the end I suppose I photograph nature because I find being out in nature rejuvenating. It resets my internal computer, brings me back to basics, or something like that. I find it relaxing even when itís not. These are the same reasons people hike, backpack, camp, canoe, and do lots of other outdoor activities. Relative to those things photography slows me way down and makes me see more, and more deeply. In thinking about it, nature is more than the subject of my photography; itís the reason for it. I enjoy the natural world for entirely different reasons and in entirely different ways than I enjoy what cities have to offer. But none of this means I canít go to the city once in a while just to take pictures. Who knows, it might be fun and rewarding in its own right, and itís something Iíll consider.
Itís worth thinking about why you do what you do once in a while. We all have different motivations for the things we do, and the simple act of defining these might expand your horizons. At the very least youíll come to know yourself a little better.
Happy shooting, wherever you do it,


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Copyright 2011 Dean M. Chriss
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