Let me start off by saying thank you to Scott for reaching out and asking me to put together this guest blog post. While my passion for photography is well known, I love being given the opportunity to talk about the philosophical and underlying importance of realizing just how fortunate we all are to be in the world of photography these days, but I digress…so let’s begin!
While my passion for photography lies with my landscape and nature work, it is actually my travel and humanitarian photography that has allowed me to carve out a name for myself in the photography industry. It has been through these experiences of traveling the globe as a photographer and photo educator that I have been able to take a somewhat unique view of both life on this planet and how it correlates to the ever changing photo industry as a whole.
These days, I feel there is no doubt that we are in the middle of a shift when it comes to photography and the photo industry. As digital cameras continue to become more affordable, photo technology continues to advance at unbelievable levels and digital editing software continues to become more accessible and easier to understand, we will continue to see a massive influx of individuals becoming interested in photography as their artistic median of choice.
While photographers of past generations seem to stubbornly focus on the perceived over-saturation of the market, they sadly miss one of the most prolific and fundamentally important virtues of this change. The simple fact that today, more people have the ability to creatively express themselves through the art of photography than ever before in the history of our species. And tomorrow….there will be even more than today.
While giving more individuals the ability to capture their experiences throughout life is amazing in its own right, it is through our unprecedented ability to share those images and experiences instantly with the world around us we begin to truly see just how significant this change truly is. According to Internet World Stats in 2011 there were 2,267,233,742 active internet users on the planet. This equates out to roughly 32.7 of the planet. Can anyone guess how much of an increase this was from 2000?
If you guessed 528% then you would be correct! The advent and increased popularity of the Internet has dramatically shaped not only how we find information, but how we share content. While sitting in my office on the complete opposite side of the world I can instantly get information of a civil uprising in Syria, an earthquake in Haiti, the discovery of a new species in Papa New Guinea or simply hear about my sisters new job….all with nearly the same amount of ease…using the same pathways of instant communication that many of us have taken for granted over the years…Social Media.
Colby Brown’s image of Mt. Fitz Roy in Patagoni on his Google+ Account
As Photographers we all should all already understand the importance of the “visual element” when it comes to our photographs. All of us strive to create compelling images that are enjoyed by others, but do we really understand just how powerful our images are in influencing others? Let’s find out…
For the images below, I want you to take a second and asked yourself what are the first words that come to mind when you view each of these photographs individually.
Now while each of us might have different reactions to these images, the average response is fairly consistent when I give this presentation at seminars and photography events.
1st Image – Serene, balance, peace, tranquility. This image is of a set of mountains taken in a valley in Las Glacieres National Park in Southern Argentina.
2nd Image – Destruction, Earthquake, Sorrow, Sadness, Despair. This image is of the Carribean Market in Port Au Prince, just months after the devastating earthquake in 2010.
3rd Image – Happyness, Joy, Warmth, Bright. This image is of a sunflower in my home town of Denver, Colorado.
4th Image – Love, Compassion, Innocence, Peaceful. This image is of my son just hours after he was born in 2012.
The point of this little exercise is to showcase the power that a single image can have over another individual. Not only can an image invoke a particular emotion in the viewer, it also has the power to effectively change their view of a given moment, experience or scene. Think about it. How often have you been moved by an image and allowed it to change the way you think about a particular subject. It could have been an image of a malnourished child in Africa, a group of soldiers in Afghanistan or a Polar Bear floating away on an iceberg.
While these scenes are more exotic that the average photographer typically gets to experience, let’s make this a little more relatable. Have you ever thought about how your images of the area surrounding your home effect other individual’s impression of your state? Let’s use Colorado, my home state as an example. According to Longwoods International, the state of Colorado had 57.9 million visitors in 2011. Out of these travelers, my home state brought in over $10 billion in revenue, which is no small amount, especially in a difficult economy. What does this have to do with photography?
Well every time I shared an image of Colorado, every time I wrote about my travels throughout the Rockies every time I gave a presentation on photographing this beautiful state, that content was published out onto the interwebs for the entire world to see. Was I personally responsible for the massive numbers I listed above? Of course not. But when you imagine the residents of the State of Colorado, the Colorado Tourism Board, all of the businesses that rely on tourism and the travelers themselves all sharing images and stories via the internet and a picture begins to be painted.
In understanding these fundamental changes, I created a new organization in 2011 called The Giving Lens. The idea is to combine photo education with supporting sustainable development initiatives in 3rd world countries around the globe. Each workshop we offer acts as a fundraiser where over 60% of the proceeds go back to the NGO’s and individuals we work with on the ground to help fight for child education, women’s rights, clean drinking water projects, species preservation and much more. So far this year we have worked in Peru and Nicaragua, with trips to Cambodia, Jordan, Israel/Palestine, and a second Nicaragua trip on the horizon. The idea is to find tangible outlets for your photography work to make a difference.
In the end the digital revolution of the photography industry and the Internet has changed the world. As more and more individuals are able to afford quality digital cameras and as we continue to become more globally connected through the Internet, the importance of the freedom of artistic expression has never been more visible. As artists and photographers we have the opportunity, and to some extent responsibility, to share our experiences with the world no matter if we are full time professional photographers or just picking up a camera for the first time. From receding glaciers to species preservation to the perception of the place we call home, we all have a role to play in shaping the image of life on this planet.