Why Is Photography the Right Fit for You?

Why Is Photography the Right Fit for You?

Let’s chat a bit. Have you ever stopped to think why you chose photography over all other avenues of artistic expression?

I am a fan of FC Barcelona. I realize that sentence might lose me a large portion of the audience right off the bat, as many of you, no doubt, support different clubs or different sports altogether, but I bring that up simply to explain a point. My being a Barca fan is not evidence of their superiority to all other sporting clubs in the world. Nor is it a grand declaration that soccer (or football) is the greatest sport ever invented. It is simply a matter of random incidents that led me to back that particular team and form an unreasonable personal attachment to players I’ve neither met nor have a practical reason to root for. I simply turned on a Barca game one day several years ago to see a guy named Ronaldiho play in an attempt to find a few points of conversation with a soccer crazed co-worker. I enjoyed it enough to keep watching. And now, years later, I find myself as rabid a fan as if I had been born in Catalonia myself. Sometimes, the things we love in life choose us, rather than the other way around.

Photography came into my life in a similarly accidental way. I was and am a filmmaker. That was my first love and remains the motivating factor for the art I produce today, whether it be still or moving. Photography came along as a happy accident. Being able to get good at it and build a career in the industry was certainly no accident. Rather, that was the result of countless hours, days, weeks, months, years, and decades of practice and hard work to improve my craft, cultivated marketing efforts, and many, many sleepless nights. But the initial seed of the passion for that craft was as simple as a random call from my father one afternoon asking me to go on a road trip.

As the years of my life have sped away like an hourglass with a crack in its side, I’ve never really shed my passions. I didn’t stop being a filmmaker when I picked up photography. I didn’t stop writing narrative work when I moved into commercials. I simply kept adding skills. Some of which overlapped. Some of which were far afield of any of the artistic efforts that came before. As technology has increased, so have the number of outlets for expression and tools required to make them. I am often asked in meetings which art form I most enjoy, and I genuinely have a hard time answering the question. I’m not being coy or hedging my bets. Rather, different art forms provide different rewards. And each interacts with my base nature as a human being in an entirely different way.

While film might be my driving force, that doesn’t mean that I value photography any less. In fact, when I think about it, photography, in many ways, is a better fit for my personality. For better or for worse, I am an introverted control freak who likes to see projects through from beginning to end. I also have O.C.D. and a simply insatiable desire to be creating art at all times. Creating art is the air which I breathe.  

Filmmaking is a team sport. It requires collaboration at its most basic level. While you certainly can just wake up in the morning and make a movie all by yourself (I’ve done it), it’s not really recommended if you want to produce work at the highest level. For that reason, it’s an expensive and slow process that requires the assembly of a lot of different pieces and the agreement of a lot of different stakeholders to even get started. The result can be beautiful and is worth all the hoops you have to jump through. But it's a slow process.  

Photography, on the other hand, is relatively fast. It is entirely possible for you to walk outside right now, right this instant, and create a beautiful image without anything or anybody to stand in your way. Sure, if you are working on a more ambitious project, you will still need to do some planning. And, despite my enjoyment of the immediacy of photography, as a professional photographer, the type of work that I do still tends to be on a larger scale and requires nearly as much production and personnel as a film project would. But the point is that I could, if I needed the charge of bringing a piece of art from concept to completion, simply grab my camera, walk outside, and create something beautiful completely on my own.

Perhaps that’s why my career as an artist began as a writer. As I bemoan the ongoing overhead investment it requires to sustain a photography business, I frequently find myself wistfully remembering the days when I was “just a writer.” Remembering those times when I would complain because I had to buy a new computer every few years and invest in new screenwriting software along with it. Nowadays, I dream of the only investment required being an occasional computer and an occasional optional software upgrade. And, aside from costs, writing is the ultimate in freedom for a self-motivated artist. I don’t have to ask permission. Nor do I have to spend a single dime to be able to imagine the most elaborate story that my mind can conjure. Sure, it might cost a mint to actually shoot the film that results from my writing. But, during the writing phase itself, everything is free. There are no constraints. There’s nobody else on set that I need to appease. I simply can let my imagination flow.

Now, we are living in an artistic world that is about to be completely overtaken by artificial intelligence. I won’t rehash my thoughts on A.I. here as I’ve written about it a lot before. Suffice to say, not all my thoughts on the topic are positive. Yet, we can all be positive that it’s coming whether we want it to or not. To that end, I’ve been exploring the use cases and teaching myself how to use the different platforms. And, one thing that is clear is that it offers an even greater degree of freedom to create outside of the constraints of budget and practical resources. So, no doubt, there will be future artists who are drawn to that as their primary art form for those very practical reasons.

I spend time trying to understand different art forms and why I am drawn (or not drawn) to them as an artist. The reasons have as much to do with who I am as a person as they do with the art form itself. Just like my becoming an FC Barcelona fan was the result of a series of life incidents rather than an objective research project to decide what team I was going to root for, falling in love with an art form has as much to do with your life beyond the paint brush as it does with the Xs and Os of a particular craft.

Understanding why we are drawn to a particular thing is important because, as time inevitably changes and the goalposts of life are moved, it can help us to adjust to the changes in such a way that we still fulfill our needs as artists. It helps us to understand what changes to make, or what changes not to make. Which new forms of art we want to explore and which won’t be the right fit. Following fads is a surefire route to madness. But following our hearts is a surefire path to fulfillment.

So, why did you fall in love with photography? What are the things about the craft that brought you into the fold? Why have you persisted? And what about it will keep you fighting on regardless of how the next chapter of the story unfolds?

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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