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People vs. Places vs. Things or NOT ?

March 14, 2012

I can still remember the very first photography class I took way back when, a continuing education course at our local community college. 

Throughout the six or eight weeks of study, we were given a variety of homework assignments based on course topics such as depth of field, composition, etc. but the subject matter was never specified.  Initially, I photographed anything and everything I could to meet that week’s objective.  THINGS such as the downspout on the garage, the backyard fence, the corner street sign, the trash can, etc.  Are you getting the picture?  Things were easy to photograph and I was quite impressed with my composition, meeting the Rule of Thirds. 

However, without having to say anything, I could sense that my instructor wanted something more from me. I looked at my work and realized I had to get out of the backyard, away from THINGS.  I needed to expand my horizons, find PLACES to go, where I could photograph scenery, etc..  I found myself visiting Kensington Metro Park, one of the PLACES in Southeast Michigan where  I could photograph as much scenery as I wanted until my heart was content – scenic rivers and lakes, flora and fauna, birds, wildlife, and animals at the petting farm.  So many PLACES within the park where I could further  hone my photography skills.  Again, I was quite impressed with my work.

But once again, I could feel my instructor really wanted something more from me.  The photos of PLACES and THINGS were technically good.  They met the course requirements, but something was missing.   It wasn’t until I had to complete my final assignment that I realized what that was – PEOPLE.  None of the photographs I had taken for class assignments thus far  had any PEOPLE in them.  That was quite a revelation.

When I shared the last assignment’s photos with my instructor, he literally breathed a sigh of relief and said “finally”!  I had indeed finally included PEOPLE in my photographs.  It was quite a growing experience for me as a photographer.  I had evolved. 

However, I also realized that for me, photographing PEOPLE for a purpose was outside of my comfort zone.  I was much more comfortable outdoors, photographing PLACES and THINGS.  So I began photographing PEOPLE for fun rather than for a purpose, sneaking those priceless candids.  

So it is quite ironic to find myself, a few decades later, preparing to go beyond my comfort zone and begin photographing PEOPLE for a purpose.  As I continue to evolve, embracing all that photography has to offer, I’m pretty sure my instructor would be proud.  And he would probably say that great photography is not about “People vs. Places vs. Things” but rather “People+Places+Things”.


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