It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring David Bean!
Allow me to introduce myself. Some of you reading this have probably heard of me/my work; the majority of you probably have not and I’m totally fine with that. My legal name is Charles David Campbell Tabor Bean, but I’ve gone by David Bean my whole life. The five names are the result of being born to hippie parents.
The following is an excerpt from the bio of me on my site….
"My life confirms the age-old adage “truth is stranger than fiction.” As a child I lived on hippie communes with no neighbors for miles, tiny apartments in Boston and everything in between. I went to 6 different high schools and was a punk rock teen in South Florida who misspent my youth at the detriment of myself and others."
To say that I had a less-than-normal life is an understatement. For me life until the age of 20 was one of severe loneliness, confusion, anger and rebellion. Those attributes all sort of fed off of each other and kept the circle spinning, especially as a teenager. Now, 20 years later I look back on those days with some regret, but mostly fondness for how all of it has shaped me into who I am. Let me say that I love who I’ve become. I have an amazing Wife, 2 awesome kids and a good career.
I treasure having grown up poor, lonely, misunderstood and mischievous for it has given me two of the most valuable things a person can possess; sympathy and empathy for others. We live in a world today where people seem to be getting not only more narcissistic, but impatient, intolerant and hateful of others and their opinions/beliefs. I’m amazed at how the comments on every single YouTube video I watch dissolves into the cruelest of arguments. You can’t even watch a cat video or a funny ad without somebody turning it into a shouting match about how someone else is stupid, ignorant or just plain wrong.
No one knows who originally said "Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle," but whoever did was very insightful. As a news & current events junkie I see and read all kinds of heart-wrenching stories every day. As I read them I’m fully aware that the people I’m reading about are only a small fraction of all the others going through similar circumstances.
We meet and pass by tens, dozens, hundreds of people a day who all have one thing in common; their lives aren’t perfect. Not only aren’t their lives perfect, but many, many times they’re ravaged by despair and crisis. Most of the time you won’t see this on their face or hear them stop to tell you. If you say, "Hey, how’s it going?" their replay will simply be, "Great, how about you?" Most are either afraid of scaring people away by telling them the truth or they just don’t think anyone would even care.
Photography used to be all about people; and more specifically the subject. It was the art of a photographer making a connection with their subject in such a way that he/she reached in and pulled something out of the person that even they didn’t know was inside of themselves. A photo shoot is like a dance; one person leads and the other follows and when both are in sync it becomes a work of art that inspires others.
I fear photography is moving away from being about people and connections to becoming more about gear, fame (for the photographer), and a way to make easy, fast money. It’s as if we look at a photo and say "Wow, what great lighting!" or, "I wonder what the camera settings were." The lighting, background, and any other visuals are important to me as a photographer to create something I want to be proud of. My graphic design background compels me to want to create "scenes" that my subjects live in. It’s my style and I enjoy it.
But it’s my opinion that when you look at a great portrait you should be drawn to the subject and be teased into wanting to know more about that person, their situation and their story. Everyone has a story and it’s our job as photographers to not just take a photo of someone’s physical appearance, but to try to pull out that story, their struggle and even their vulnerabilities.
When I look through my photos it’s sometimes eerie because I feel like the people in them are looking back at me, just like they were when I took the photo. It makes me feel vulnerable for some reason and if I look at a photo where the person is looking into the camera and don’t get that feeling then I think that I probably didn’t make a real connection with them.
It can become really hard to connect to someone when all of the messages we get from society tell us to draw up lines, put people in boxes, label them and make enemies of those who would hold to different opinions than us. I’m a person who has very strong opinions on politics and religion among other things. I think I’m right about a whole lot of things; just ask my Wife. But at the same time I always make it my goal to try to understand how another person could think 180 degrees differently. Respect for the opinions and beliefs of others, no matter how much we disagree with them is essential if we are ever going to be able to connect with the people we shoot.
Conservatives, Democrats, Independents, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Rednecks, Gang-bangers, celebrities, rich people, poor people, etc. are all human beings created (I believe) in the image of God; let’s not argue about that in the comments please ;) We all have way more in common than we don’t. We all struggle, we all desperately want to love and be loved.
If we make our shoots all about the technical wizardry and fancy gear, but treat the subject as just another prop in the photo, we will create beautiful, perfectly lit photos that have no depth or soul. We will have made the photo be about us the photographer rather than about the person in the photo. People are not props to be used to make our photos look prettier. People are what make our lives and our work beautiful.
If we could learn to see and embrace people as fellow passengers with us on this crazy train called life; all with their own struggles, addictions, problems and beliefs, then maybe we could make real, honest connections that would result in organic photos that aren’t just pretty, but have actual depth and soul.
From one imperfect human being to another, thanks for reading.