Photography is not unlike being a fisherman. A fisherman goes out to sea every morning and places himself in a situation where he can catch fish. He must be patient, and let the fish come to him. If and when the moment arrives, he must be aware that a fish has caught the bait and proceed to reel it in. The fisherman who places himself in situations where catching fish is likely and then lets go of all control can then come home with a bucket full of fish.
Taking pictures, like catching fish, is a rather peculiar act: you can’t just throw the line, pull it back and expect to catch anything. Although most of us have committed the act of taking a picture (i.e. composing and then clicking the button), I wouldn’t be surprised if none of the pictures taken actually had any pictures inside of them.
See, I come from the school of thought that believes that you can never force a picture; all you can do is place yourself in situations or create situations for yourself in which pictures can present themselves to you. In that sense, being a photographer becomes relatively simple, yet incredibly difficult at the same time. It is simple because all you need to do is be aware and ready to push the button when the moment presents itself. It is difficult because you must then let go of all sense of control and the belief that you can control everything that happens in your life.
A fisherman who is convinced that the world is in his hands and that he can move mountains and rivers is the type of fisherman who keeps checking his line, disrupting the waters, and making all kinds of noise that only keep the fish at bay. He will not catch anything. This man returns home, also with a bucket, but that bucket is empty.
The perplexing thing about photography is that it’s still possible to “catch fish” when there are none to catch. And as great and convenient as that can be, it can also be rather confusing for those who call themselves photographers, but have nothing but empty buckets.
If we are to survive in this world and create high caliber work, we must learn how to move with nature. Sometimes that means going a bit slower than you would like but the results are worth it. People aren’t stupid. They can tell when your photograph is not from your core, your true self. From what you’re really about. They can tell when you forced it. Canted angles, sexy models and intricate light setups don’t cover up shit. You’re lying and being dishonest. How dare you.
Photography is convenient, but also a curse. Fisherman cannot fake it. Fisherman cannot bring the bucket home in a different fashion to trick others into thinking he caught fish. He has no choice but to be honest. Photography, on the other hand, allows for lies and dishonesty. The greats will not try to hide the fact that they may not have taken any actual real pictures at times. In fact, many times they don’t and they know it. Just ask any world-renowned photographer who’s worked with a big ad agency to pay his bills. See those pictures all over Times Square? Those are not real pictures. They are constructions.
Anyways, this is not to bash those who do not have any pictures inside their pictures. The point is to reach a higher level of artistic honesty. The point is to let go. To be patient, yet open and aware like a fisherman. Go out everyday and place yourself in situations where success is likely and just be patient. Better yet, expect nothing. And that is when you will get everything.
by Jason Lam