The role of the photographer goes beyond just taking a picture. In many ways, the photographer is very much the muse that allows the subject to do what they were placed on earth to do.
When you direct and tell someone or a couple to do all these “cheesy” poses – to look off into the distance, to look strong, to hold each other lovingly – what you are doing is giving your subjects the PERMISSION to finally do what they've actually been wanting to do all along. You, as the photographer, are the viewer that acknowledges the existence of the subject. You encourage the subject to be who they truly want to be. You motivate them to be seen how they truly want to be seen. In this sense, you are more than just a voyeur; you are like the snake charmer, luring the snake out of its cave. You are like the coach, bringing out the best in your players. You are like the best friend, or the parent, encouraging your loved ones to go for it. I'm here for you.
Imagine how you behave when you are in a public space. You hold back. You don't want to be seen taking selfies of yourself jumping for joy or dancing your ass off. It can be a bit embarrassing, and it's definitely not cool. "Jeez, maintain your composure!" Then again, one of the biggest conundrums of life is that the most embarrassing things are often the coolest, and the coolest thing of all will always to be loved and celebrated for being your true self. Oddly enough, we cannot be our complete selves when we are by our lonesome. We need someone to laugh at our jokes, to feel our strength, to receive our love, and to acknowledge our existence. While smartphones and their selfie capabilities make a good attempt at fulfilling this role, it still falls short due to the fact that it will only ever be an inanimate object. This is where the photographer steps in.
The role of the photographer is not just to take a photo. You are there to acknowledge, to motivate, to support. Yes, it's okay to look off into the distance. It's okay to put on your sexy face for this portrait. Yes, it's okay to hold each other lovingly as you are silhouetted against the sunset.
That's right, go ahead – be tough, be strong, be sexy.
Deep down inside every individual is the desire to be perceived a certain way. If not, we wouldn't spend so much money on clothes, hair gel, self-help books, gym memberships, and good-looking partners. Photographs solidify these aspirations. It is a stamp in the record books. This is who I am.
Selfies and selfie sticks don't do it justice. It's too narcissistic. You look too full of yourself. An individual aside from yourself documenting who you are? That's believable. That's honest. People will buy that.
The photographer’s job is to allow for this deep desire to come out unharmed, to support, to encourage, to motivate, to say it's okay. I'm here for you.
Next time you go out and photograph someone, nurture the relationship. Let them know that in your presence it is okay to be who they truly are, or who they wish to be. In this way, you as the photographer are giving the greatest gift of all – the gift of acceptance.
by Jason Lam