Photography happens long before you pick up your camera

This notion tends to surprise, even shock, non-photographer, and photographer-newbie types, but it’s so very true-photography, at least the kind I’m talking about here, happens long before you put a camera in your hands and click the shutter.

If this wasn’t the case, think about it, photography could be bought by purchase, not learned by practice.

It’s silly and naive to think that photographic creativity begins when you pick up a camera.

No, it begins, the moment you roll out of bed, and it retires, the moment you put your head on the pillow.

Photography is not just something you do, it is something you are.

So much goes into the art of seeing, with and without a camera-your mood and frame of mind, knowledge of the subject, the time you have to explore, the purpose of your photography efforts, the style you are attempting to reinforce, time of day, weather conditions, light, perspective, angle, orientation, the field of view, the list goes on

I have always been a huge fan of Dorothea Lange (1895-1965), an American documentary and social photographer, journalist, and humanitarian, best known for her Depression-era work, among displaced and migrant workers, for the Farm Security Administration.

Her work was brilliant, poignant, touching. She had an uncanny knack for seeing what most of us don’t, can’t or want to.

She said, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”

She lived this mantra. Life, with and without a camera, was one gigantic photo opportunity.

This couldn’t be any more true for me as well. The camera has been, is, and will always be, my passport into a world of observation, perception, examination, that I likely would have never otherwise known, experienced, or celebrated.

I am a man, most fortunate.

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them”. Elliott Erwitt

Thanks to my own version of the camera lucida, I see things in this life, with and without a camera in hand, both great and small, found and staged, urban and rural, local and international, colorful and drab, insignificant and monumental, funny and sad, tall and wide, wet and dry.

It is the very art of seeing, that happens non-stop, and is all around you, constantly, and not the actuation of the shutter, where real attachments and affinities of photographic genius are made and memorialized.

“Most things in life are moments of pleasure and a lifetime of embarrassment; photography is a moment of embarrassment and a lifetime of pleasure.” Tony Benn

Permit me an indelicacy here.

According to the Society for Sex Therapy and Research, vaginal sex, among couples, typically lasts between 3-7 minutes in duration. That’s it. Done. Next. Do we have any chocolate in the pantry? Wanna watch a movie? What are you wearing tomorrow? Have you seen my phone? Beige, I think I’ll paint the ceiling beige?

I’m not judging anyone here. This is orgasm, the gooey part, not intimacy.

Sadly, so many of us, experience, as a general rule, orgasm without intimacy. It happens.

Intimacy happens 3-7 hours, 3-7 days, 3-7 months, 3-7 years before…

If you enjoy sexual relations, of any kind, with anyone, you know exactly what I’m talking about here. Intimacy happens long before you share sheets.

Observing life, without a camera in hand, is photography’s foreplay to coreplay.

And it is exactly where photography intimacy lives and is experienced.

The marvel, the magic, the magnificence-the art of seeing and observing-happen long before you ever put a camera in your hand.

The beauty is all around you, everywhere.

Notice her and she will wink back.



Jack Hollingsworth