My friend Ugyen told me the other day he borrowed someone’s Nikon D80 to try it out, and he can’t wait to take photos. I’m excited for him. In many ways I envy him the beginning of his photography journey.
A certain nostalgia hits me when I hear of someone excited with their start in photography. Thinking about this led to my questions: why is it so attractive to be a hobbist? What makes it so good to go back to basics, even after publication and all the hundreds of thousands of images of people and places? Why is the hobbist approach so important right now?
I’m tempted sometimes to scroll through the scores of gigabytes of unprocessed shots in the hard drive. Sort of like a pat in the back for having seen them, and captured them. But this I know is not photography. Photography isn’t the past; it’s the present.
The reason I want to go back to basics has more to do with my mind than my camera.
The camera should be an extension of the mind. And the mind of a hobbyist is different from the working photographer.
Part of my lifelong inquiry is about creativity—about what inspires people, how they get insired, and the sustainability of passion that stems from a sense of wonder.
I find hobbyists have a great potential for creativity.
Light on fallen leaves at temple, Siem Reap.
Hobbyists are fearless.
Humans learn to fear, and it’s a product of our own creation. We fear not “doing it right” and of others’ reactions to our decisions. As a working photographer I’ve faced clients whose creative ideas differed from mine; I’ve also faced photography contest judges who slammed creative decisions because they did not fulfill technical interpretations.
But the hobbyist isn’t making images to please a client or judge. He is free to use whatever skills he has to make something that only he can see. This leads to a lot of freedom.
Dappled light on ruins, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.
Expectations can kill creativity.
The nature of a hobby is that the expectations are internal. The urge to make something beautiful or fresh out of the daily ordinary can be a professional urge, yes, but in the hobbyist it is unfettered by expectations from someone else.
Experimentation is part of the hobbyist’s freedom.
The freedom to try something just for the heck of it is in the power of a hobbyist. She can make a thousand images just because of something she wondered, or is trying to figure out. This freedom to follow the lines of a “what if…” gives the hobbyist the perfect platform to innovate and experiment.
Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.
Passion fuels creativity.
The best part about being a hobbyist is the absence of creativity killers and large doses of passion. Ultimately, this is the ‘high’ a photographer gets from his or her hobby. Passion carries the craft through the difficult learning that we must engage in to become technically and artistically mature in the art.
I wish Ugyen, and others who are starting out on their photography journey, a long and happy love affair with light.
It’s a wish I would gladly receive, too.
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