What Does Photography Mean to You?

A great deal of ink is spilled on these interwebs talking about the latest in photography gear and what you should or should not buy. But photography means more than just technology.

For some, photography is an escape. It’s a moment in time to separate from the normality of our routines and sink into the sublime pleasure of creating art. We can forget about life’s troubles for 1/200th of a second and simply focus on the life present within the confines of our viewfinder.

For me, photography has always been something of a passport. Not a literal passport of the sort required to travel between countries. Rather, it’s my passport to travel through the lives of others. Being a photographer provides me with the ultimate excuse to indulge my uncontrollable urge to learn about other people. Sure, I can observe someone from a distance or try to learn about them by piecing together random elements I’ve cultivated from occasional meetings or their online persona. But to get a subject in front of my camera and be able to really lean in, both metaphorically and physically, and really get to know them is one of the reasons why I love my job. 

How often in life do you get to stand inches away from someone’s face and simply stare at them for an extended period of time? If you were to do this without a camera in your hand, it would be fair for that person to question your commitment to the idea of personal space. But I do this all the time as a photographer as I wait for the perfect moment to take a shot. Even more importantly, during all those moments between shots, I am constantly communicating with my subject. Practically speaking, this allows me to get to that perfect moment mentioned earlier. But it also affords me plenty of time to get to know the individual in a way that I might not be able to access in any other situation.

For others, the love of photography is the love of the challenge. Like putting together a thousand-piece puzzle from scratch, combining camera settings to create endless variations on a theme are the perfect teasers to the brain. A stimulus that allows a photographer to practice problem-solving and provides a sense of satisfaction with every bridge crossed.

In the video above from Nikon, shot by Alex Gorosh with the Nikon Z 6II, a handful of legendary photojournalists, including Ami Vitale, Carol Guzy, Deanne Fitzmaurice, and John H. White, discuss what photography has meant to them in their lives. They discuss the many ways in which photography has enriched their lives beyond career aspirations and the gifts photography can give along the way.

What does photography mean to you? What made you first pick up a camera? And how has that decision affected your life even when your finger isn’t resting atop the shutter button?

Christopher Malcolm's picture

Christopher Malcolm is a Los Angeles-based lifestyle, fitness, and advertising photographer, director, and cinematographer shooting for clients such as Nike, lululemon, ASICS, and Verizon.

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I just love the fact that while moments of our lives come and go it's possible to make them stay forever by capturing them. I think that's what fascinates me the most. Besides, I like the way pictures can be post-processed and the whole 'magic' of perfecting the shot seems amazing to me even though it's tiring. Heck, I'm still impressed by the possibility of making some old photos from your family archives look new and photo restoration is another thing that I like about photography (think Photoglory, Inpaint, etc).

Absolutely. Our images can last well beyond ourselves.