Am I a Photographer?
No, of course, I’m not a photographer!?
I don’t like cameras and the whole F/stop aperture thing, understanding lighting…it’s all technical and I am NOT a technical or digitally savvy person. So how could I be a photographer?
I mean… I have a big Nikon camera. I use it and my phone; I take tons of photos. I like taking pictures. But REAL photographers do so much photo editing! I don’t like that. I don’t own photoshop or know how to use it. So how could I be a photographer?
Technically, I did take a photography class in college as a part of my art degree. It was my lowest grade out of all my art classes! I enjoyed darkroom manipulation, but the technical camera stuff was not my cup of tea. So, I walked out of there thinking I love photos but not photography.
In my mind, professional photographers love cameras and know all the ins and outs of them. They understand staging/posing and lighting and know all about photo editing. They are detail-oriented and enjoy technical and digital things. A photographer in my mind does portraits or weddings or nature photography. That is not me.
Fast forward to a couple years ago. I’m in NYC for the first time and come across a sun print paper kit in the Guggenheim gift shop. A memory comes to mind of making sun prints somewhere in my past and I remember them being fun. So, I buy it. Takes me like a year or so to use it – just a fun activity I do with some younger friends. I enjoy making sun prints so I buy more paper… and then more. I start getting cyanotype fabric and playing around with different ideas. I’m working with objects, shadows, and I start making photo negative transparencies of photos I’ve taken… Do you see where this is going?
After two years of making cyanotypes, (even explaining when people ask that cyanotypes are made using a PHOTOGRAPHIC process) I still think I’m an artist, but not a photographer. Then a month or so ago I see an advertisement for a photography competition at the Brigham City Art and History Museum and I’m intrigued. I start to realize that some cyanotypes I’ve been working on fit the theme of the show. Maybe I should apply? I mean, my cyanotype art IS photography - alternative photography but photography, nonetheless. So, I apply… I’m accepted… and guess what?!?! I even win a MERIT AWARD… in a PHOTOGRAPHY competition?!?!
Guys… I think maybe I AM A PHOTOGRAPHER!
It’s silly now. Of course, I’m a photographer. But we can get so in our heads about what things mean, about what an artist is or what a photographer is… we can make it such a small box. The truth is I just didn’t have examples in my education or life of the wide variety of forms photography and photographers take. I didn’t know about the alternative photography world. I kinda stumbled into it.
Cyanotype (or sun prints) is accessible. You don’t need a dark room, it’s low maintenance and it does not have to be very technical. It’s a quick and active process and involves the outdoors which I like. There is an element of surprise and experimentation. Also, things I enjoy. I may not be the typical photographer. But to be honest I’m not really the typical anything, which my art, and my photography, will reflect.
Now I’m learning to expand my concept of what a photographer is to make room for me. I’m glad there are other photographers out there who geek out about their cameras and know all the photoshop techniques to take work to the next level. Beautiful photos have come from those types of photographers. But photography is a wide field with lots of different ways to capture images and produce work.
I happen to prefer a more analog route, an old-school technique that I enjoy and use to bring my particular photo imagery to life. Nothing wrong with that.
So yeah, I’m a photographer.
Yours truly, Amanda Porter