“Are you a photographer?” The first question that many people ask when they see my camera. I’ve always struggled with that question and hesitation creeps in to provide an answer.
So when do you call yourself a photographer? Anyone with a camera or an iPhone can take photos. But does that make you a photographer? I’ve always thought you’d call yourself a photographer when you made money at it, and I’m far from that happening especially in today’s world of thousands of photographers. Then when I think of “amateur photographer” for some reason it doesn’t seem to represent the seriousness of my passion for photography. To me in today’s world, amateur seems to have more of a meaning like you don’t quite measure up, you don’t qualify as a professional, and in general…you’re not really that good at something. Thus, my struggle.
So today, while reading one of several new books that I recently ordered, finally someone makes sense with the term amateur photographer. Jan Phillips’ book, God is at Eye Level, Photography as a Healing Art nails it for me. I needed to be reminded that the latin root of the word amateur is the verb amare, to love. An amateur is someone who does something for the pure pleasure of it. Now here’s another important part. “For an amateur, the important thing is the experience, not the accomplishment.” To be totally honest here, I do want my photographs to have impact, to evoke some sort of emotion when someone views them, but the bottom line for me is the experience.
Whether I’m on the farm or in my city or in the desert or on my travels, I enjoy the experience. I enjoy getting lost in a field of weeds, a section of the woods or the desert, a neighborhood in MY city or a brand new country…and by getting lost I mean, hours go by and it seems like minutes. It’s getting so excited the moment my eyes lands on the subject…the experience of varying the composition…the capture…then the process of downloading my photos in an eagerness to view the outcome. Simple, yet thrilling to me.
Just reading this section of Phillips’ book has finally given me the confidence to say, I’m an amateur photographer and feel good about it! What about you? Have you ever struggled with this? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
On a side note, Phillips dedicates her book to “all the photographers who are using their vision in the service of community and compassion, making images that inspire us and remind us of the beauty that is ours to safeguard and honor.” I’m so struck with her spiritual teachings that I’m going to re-read each chapter, reflect and share my thoughts with you. So once a week, look for the title of my post, Photography as a Healing Art. I will welcome your thoughts!