In recent years I have photographed and hiked the Kumano kodo pilgrimage trail sacred to Shugendo Buddhism in Japan. I’ve walked long portions of the Camino de Santiago in Spain with my camera. I’ve taken photos to bring light to the near darkness in Son Doong, the world’s largest cave in Vietnam where fewer people have ventured than have been into space.
As a photography workshop leader, I’ve taught groups of photographers in the United States, France, and many other parts of the world. In the course of my travels when I meet people—and I love to chat with folks along the way—once it becomes known that I am a professional photographer, one question is pretty constant: What kind of photographer are you?
Generally, when folks ask me this question they are looking for a pretty straightforward answer. Sometimes I wish I could tell them “I photograph children for a portrait studio,” “I am an architectural photographer,” “I am a wedding photographer,” “I photograph jewelry,” or something similarly specific.
As I’ll explain later in this blog story, I’ve worked professionally in a number of photographic genres, back at the beginning of my first photography career in the days of analog, film photography.
No knowledge is ever wasted. It’s helpful to have the skillsets from the different photographic niches under my belt, as well as my experiences as a computer programmer, fine-art painter, and a writer. But none of these individually fit what I’ve been doing and what I have regarded as my current profession since the dawn of digital era.
I tell folks who ask that I am a Photographer as Poet. That’s of course the title of this blog story. Stay tuned: in this blog story I’ll tell you what I think being a Photographer as a Poet means, some of the history of how I’ve arrived at this profession and calling, and some words about what it means to have a professional practice as a photographic poet.
I’ve become so enamored of my job title of Photographer as Poet that I had an inkan—a Japanese “chop” or inked stamp that is sometimes used in place of a signature—created with the characters that roughly translate to this phrase. Sometimes I use my inkan to handstamp and decorate my prints, particularly those printed on Japanese washi.
What does it mean to be a “Photographer as Poet” professionally? This is often a follow-up question to “What kind of photographer are you?”(more…)