There was a period of about 5 years when I had a really bad travel bug. Not the kind of bug that keeps you glued to the toilet seat, but the kind that kept me running from country to country. It was an addiction… an excuse to escape all the things I didn’t like about my life. Which is so silly, because life was always extremely good no matter how hard I tried to paint it otherwise. At some point during this prolonged phase; a mentor of mine sent a strongly worded email which can be paraphrased as:
“You spoiled and arrogant little jackass… you don’t need to be in Africa to take great pictures, and you don’t have to goto Amsterdam to have interesting experiences. You live in LA. Grow up, get out of the basement, go outside and look around.”
I argued with him and then proceeded to ignore his advice for another few years - because I really was arrogant. But, the seed eventually began to sprout. Now I photograph anything and everything I’m doing no matter how uninteresting it may seem to anyone else who isn’t actually there. The little moments are important, like the other night when I learned how to tile a bathroom floor.
There are so many amateur photographers out there running around with a camera around their neck shooting the same crap as everyone else. Only a tiny number of them have realized that 50 years from now no one is going to care about their typical street photographs, their typical portraits, or their typical landscapes. The best thing we can do with our camera is to document that which we know best - ourselves, our family and friends. 50 years from now those images will have a historic value, to your family if no one else. Those pictures will tell a story as unique as you are; you’ll never go wrong photographing the best and worst moments life throws your way. The pictures will be incredible no matter what.
Cliches don’t matter when your wife is living out the last month of her life in a hospital bed, dying of cancer. Or when your grandmother takes a shot of tequila on her 90th birthday and gives the camera a big thumbs up. Or when you’re spending 40 hours a week sitting in a cubicle staring at a screen till your contacts dry and fall out onto your keyboard.
Turn the camera inwards, unless you have lived your life in the service of others, the experiences YOU ARE having are the experiences you’re most qualified to document. I promise… the way you try to see the world isn’t as interesting as the reality of how it actually is.