Daily Archives January 29, 2020

Photo by Reann Huber

Cultivating a Photographic Vision

First off, I would like to thank Scott and Brad for this opportunity, it’s an honor to be a guest on here. I also want to thank Scott for hiring me back in 2013 as an assistant to help with remote cameras at an Atlanta Falcons game. I had been a Sports Illustrated assistant for several years before helping Scott, but that opportunity led to me shooting an entire season for the Falcons, which in turn led to many other opportunities (including being featured by Instagram for my Falcons work).

Adrian Clayborn. Atlanta Falcons, 2015

For this post, I’ve decided to write about having a vision for photography. It may sound grand and vague and only reserved for fine art photographers, but it’s something I think photographers from many disciplines, if not all, should aim for.

It can be hard to define what having a vision really means. It’s a lot like art itself; it can be easily recognized, but very difficult to put into exacting words.

Omar Shekhey, who runs the Somali American Community Center in Clarkston, Ga. Here, he drives a taxi for extra money. NPR, 2015

Talking to Chris Aluka Berry, a good friend and a remarkable photographer, we discussed what having a vision meant, and I think he summed it up well:

It becomes apparent that a photographer has a vision when you can see the photographer in the work. If a portrait captures the essence of a person, then the photographer’s body of work should capture the essence of what he or she is trying to say.

Chris Aluka Berry

But how does one go about doing something like this? I don’t pretend to be an expert on this topic or be able to give a step-by-step guide on obtaining a vision for one’s photography, but I am offering some experiences and what has guided me towards a personal vision of how I see.

A Bit About Me

It was about 15 years ago when I first remember hearing the words “vision” in this context. Barely a photographer myself, I was intrigued and wanted to begin working on my own. It was 2004 and I was attending the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, an event that attracted young and old, seasoned veterans to rookies like myself.

Several of the speakers mentioned finding and following your personal vision. I had an idea, but I really didn’t know what this meant. But I wanted it. I wanted to feel like all of my work came from a place deep inside, guiding me to make photos that were truly saying something.

I had been shooting professionally for a couple of years by this point. In 2001, I took my first journalism job as a reporter for The Moultrie Observer in South Georgia, a sleepy town with a magnificent courthouse and a downtown surrounded by what seemed like endless miles of cotton fields and pine trees.

Part of a reporter’s job at many small newspapers is to take photos to accompany his or her stories, and working at the Observer was no exception. I was one of two reporters — and though we had a staff photographer, I couldn’t count on him covering all of my stories because of the sheer volume of work he was responsible for.

But this turned out to be one of the biggest blessings of my life. I fell head over heels in love for photography and knew that capturing images would be my path. By 2004 when I was attending the Seminar, I had started working at another small town newspaper — but this time as a staff photographer. My dream had arrived.

Griffin High School baseball. The Griffin Daily News, 2006