The way I look at the world

BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

When I started as a photographer, which was a very, very long time ago, I got involved in a huge fashion show as the featured photographer. My job was to shoot the images for the posters, press releases, souvenir program, postcards and collaterals. In other words, I was supposed to photograph everything. It was a packaged thing. There were several shooting sessions for different purposes. One was for a glossy magazine, another for a newspaper, and so on. It was a big break for me, and naturally, I was very excited. I packed my expensive gear, and went on location with a couple of assistants. It was an out of town shoot, and I photographed more than a dozen fabulous models wearing the couture of yet another dozen of fabulous fashion designers.

What excited me most about the whole thing was that I was managed to convince everyone that I want to do my own thing. I was provided with everything I needed to make the pictorial happen, and everyone just pretty much stayed in the background, giving me total creative freedom and control, as I happily snapped away. I should have been afraid at the magnitude of the responsibility, but, somehow, I managed to keep my uncharacteristic fear at bay while I foolishly and doggedly worked till everything that needs to be done got done. And, the really amazing thing is that, I realized, because I know exactly what I wanted, and I already saw the pictures in my mind’s eye before I even took the pictures, everybody pretty much left me to my own devices to do what I wanted to do.

To say that I had a great time is an understatement. It was one of the most memorable, and the most fun, projects I’ve ever done in my entire career as a photographer. I did my work the way I wanted to do it. It’s a dream job. A lot of photographers would kill for an assignment like this–to have complete freedom in a pictorial. Assignments similar to this wouldn’t happen until much later in my career when clients would just openly trust me to create the kind of images which I think is best.

Call it egotistical, but it really is both a powerful and an empowering experience for a photographer. I’ve always imagined my shoots will be this way, and I count myself lucky for being able to get an assignment early on that gave me the opportunity to experience what it would be like to be the real “boss” of the shoot, and then later on, as I matured in my art and craft, to be afforded these same exciting and valuable opportunities again and again.

When shooting, I don’t think much of anything except to make sure I’m getting the picture. I am sure, any professional photographer out there will agree when I say that while the whole thing looks simple and easy, it is not. When I am working, each and every fiber of my being is involved in the work that is being done. I am so focused with what is infront of me that I tend to lose awareness of everything else. All others become a blur. I am just totally, and narrowly, into my work. The process of creation is intense presence and focus on one thing, and one thing alone: the moment.

If creating a photograph is an experience that is this deep and this personal, an image therefore becomes yet another signature of the photographer. While many people worked with the photographer in making things happen and in creating the images, the resulting final photographic impressions is ultimately the ownership, hence, the personal responsibility, of the photographer.

Eager and excited to see my work published, at the time when I was just starting, I got weak in the knees when I saw, for the first time, a double-spread splashed with huge photographs–all of which, I took. I didn’t expect the photos to be printed so big! I thought it would be printed in the usual size. That was when, it dawned on me, the awesome power and responsibility that photographers possess. As a photographer, I was asking the viewers of my pictures, everyone, to look at things the way I was looking at things. Every single time my photograph is published or publicly displayed, I am asking the viewing public to look at something from my point of view.

The world, in photographs, is not the real world. It is the world as seen by the photographer. It is a point-of-view framed by the photographer. The way I look at the world, through my photographs, is the way people are seeing it as well. and that, is a very big deal. So, more than the egoistic ideal of being able to command a small, precocious army of creative types in a photo shoot, I am, in turn, deeply humbled when viewers take a moment, to look at my photographs, looking at my world the way I look at the world.

Really, it is a humbling experience that is quite like no other.

Advertisements

About this entry