Look Beyond Photography: Episode 2 “Finding Your Voice”

Photography is a trap that lures you in just long enough to crush your soul.  If you haven’t felt that way, give it a minute…your turn is coming.

For some reason, there is a mysterious allure to photography that draws people in by the truck loads.  I think this is because we live in a day and age of instant gratification.  Since the onset of digital photography, we’re able to snap a photo, see it instantly, and think “Wow, look what I’ve just created!”  Coupled with having the ability to then share that photo with millions of people around the world at the touch of a button and well, everyone wants to become an “actual” photographer.  What really fuels the fire is then seeing all of the “likes” and comments from family and friends rolling in…”Oh my, your photos are amazing!” “You have such a great eye!” “You should be a photographer!”  It’s our drug…and like a junkie, we can’t wait for our next “fix”.

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It doesn’t take much to convince us that that these people are right.  I should be a photographer!  The world deserves to see what I see and who am I to deprive them of that gift?  We would never say that out loud!  I mean, how arrogant would that be…but let’s be honest, we’ve all thought it to some degree.  That’s why we buy that first “official” camera after all, isn’t it; because it will make me even better?  If you’re reading this and thinking, “that’s not me, I just really enjoy taking photos”, well would you enjoy it as much if no one were to ever see them, “like” them, or comment on them?  If even part of you longs for that attention, then we’re on the same page and being honest with ourself.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not trying to dissuade or convince anyone not to be a photographer.  At this point, you may even be thinking “well this isn’t very inspirational”, but just hang in there!  You see, we do need to come to some realizations when we decide to pursue photography.  One of those realizations is in fact that we have been given a gift to see the world in a unique perspective.  I also firmly believe that God gives us each unique gifts and talents that we’re expected to share with others.  However, I also believe that all too often we use those gifts inappropriately which result in us being too discouraged to even use them at all.  Here’s what I mean…

When our pursuit of photography is driven by the desire to showcase ourself, our talent and this “look what I can do” attitude, the inevitable occurs.  We begin to get more involved in online photography groups and social circles.  We think that we have this special, unique voice in the world of photography.  Then we come to realize that as we become more aware of what’s happening in photography that there are an infinite number of people who are already better than us, they’re much further along in their career, they’ve already perfected all of the “new” techniques we’ve been learning,  and at very least we see that there are a million others out there just like us.  Because of social media and online networking, this big world we live in all of a sudden feels very small…and we find we’re not as unique as we once thought.

This alone makes so many people want to give up, but let me say that the best is still yet to come!  It’s in these difficult moments that it’s time to reflect and reposition.  We need to understand some things, some of which may be new concepts.  The world really is still a big place!  I know it feels like that photographer from Norway that you admire so much is right next door, but they’re not.  It can seem like there are a thousand people doing exactly what you do right in your own backyard, but that is simply not the case.  It can feel like you have not been created as a unique and special individual, but that just isn’t true!  You see, God has an overview of this world that we do not have.  He creates and places people precisely where they’re needed with the skills and abilities required to affect the most change.   …but when we are so focused on what photography can do for ME, we fail to see the most important realization of all!

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The role of photographer is one that is assigned to capture a moment for someone else!  That natural talent and unique eye has been given to you in order to immortalize pieces of this life in a unique and special way.  You see, our voice in photography will only be found when we realize who it is we’re calling out to.  Whose lives are we meant to capture?  What story are we meant to tell?  How can I use my gifts as a tool to lift up others?  When we understand that right where we are is right where we’re meant to be, it’s then we can see ways to use photography in unimaginable ways.  We can reach a point in fact where we can actually use photography in a role greater than itself!

If you feel that a career in photography is where you’re meant to be, you have been given a special task.  At times, it can be a long and arduous road.  Yet at other times it can be incredibly profound.  It’s very much like our spiritual walk with Christ.  He leads us through valleys for strength and learning as well as over mountaintops of amazing joy!  …and just as we’re able to bear the valleys because God is with us and we see the future He has in store, we need to understand that as those He has called to photography, He will also help us to endure the difficult times so that we can experience the joy that this career can bring.  If you’re reading this now, and you know what it’s like to struggle in finding YOUR voice, spend some time reflecting today.  Who are you calling out to and what do you want them to hear?