The power of words

The power of words

I take care in the language I use in relation to photography and in this blog. No, I’m not talking about profanity here. Let me explain…

The words snapshot, capture, shoot or take have not appeared on this blog until now. It’s not that I want to be politically correct or morally superior and I have no issue with people using these terms as they are more or less synonymous with photography. It’s just that I don’t think these words really describe how I feel about what I do.

They seem to me to be destructive rather than creative, more limiting than expressive. I see myself as someone who makes or discovers images, recording the light that falls on a scene of my choosing. It concerns me that the language I use to describe what I do could influence the work itself.

Am I being silly? Perhaps. One of my early “aha” moments came when I presented my first photography portfolio at university. The images were okay but the prints were evidence of the learning curve I had in front of me. I had done a pretty crude job of mounting the images to some black matte board and used an old Agfa paper box to store them. My lecturer was fine arts photographer Ian Lobb, whose work is in the national gallery in Canberra and Victoria. Ian looked at my work and said “If you don’t respect your work enough to present it well, why should I?”That sentence has stuck with me for thirty years.

I think the language I use is an extension of this. I can be a “happy snapper” and when I am, I have different expectations of what will result, less concern, less attention to what is recorded. When I am making images, my attention is directed towards the end result. I care more about what that result will be and how it reflects my ability. It’s an act of respect.