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Take Photos About Things as Opposed Just ‘Of’ Things

It might seem like innocuous, vague advice at first, but it's not. Photography is a difficult craft to stand out in, partially through the depth of the subject, but more down to the sheer number of people taking photographs. This advice can help you on that front.

With how much content I consume and create on and around the topic of photography, I have heard and read damn near every platitude there is. Many of them are generally true, albeit a little unhelpful, but the truly sage advice tends to be quieter. 

I first heard the advice from this video some time ago, also by James Popsys. I'm not sure if he coined it or not, but it's useful. The simple premise is that you don't just want to take a picture of something, but about something. A genre in which this could not be more applicable is photojournalism. Often, when tasked with capturing something, the photographer needs to find a narrative and tell it.

My favorite example of this is when I covered the Sami people of Norway and their relationship with reindeer. Taking photographs of the beautiful location and reindeer would have been interesting enough — to me at least — but I wanted more than that. I wanted the set of photographs to be about the Sami people, not just of them. Whether I achieved that is open for debate, but it's a worthy goal nevertheless.

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Justin Sharp's picture

I'm reading Sally Mann's memoir, "Hold Still," and just read a passage describing (I'm paraphrasing) about how she wishes to make photos about a concept instead of taking a photo just to see how something looks as a photograph. Less than an hour later I see this article and video. I think this is the universe telling me to reevaluate my approach to taking photographs.

Douglas Goodhill's picture

The idea of expression involves communication between what the artist feels and how the viewer reacts to the artwork. (It should go without saying that documentary photography is an art). I'm not watching the video because your statement says it all. Can we see the Sami images someplace?