Jokes are often made by and about photographers that they like to "shoot" people. You see it on t-shirts, and in memes. Sometimes you hear it at events or paid gigs. But the other day I was reading in a great little book called, The Little Book of Contemplative Photogaphy, by Howard Zehr, how our language about photography has become highly aggressive: we shoot people, we take images, photographers steal moments, we lurk into uninvited spaces. Icky.
Luckily, Zehr doesn't believe this is the nature of the medium (and neither do I), but that it's been co-opted for less than virtuous taks: paparazzi, fashion photography's influence on beauty standards, etc. Photography doesn't have to be this way though.
Zehr posits we can engage with photography and our subjects in a way that invites, that calls, receives, meditates, contemplates. One of the ways he suggests we moved from contemplative photography to what it has become is the development of our cameras. In today's DSLR cameras often the photographer "hides" behind the viewfinder and minimizes engagement with their subject. Although some of this is functional practicality, it was not always so with other types of cameras, like the medium format film cameras that offered "waist level finders" where the photographer looks down into the viewfinder at about waist level, not obscuring their face from the subject.
This speaks to my heart as I've begun to explore film again this past year. I love not only the look and feel of it--I love the process. I can't see what I've gotten right away, measuring my objective, but I'm invited to see, capture, then wait. In that way it feels meditative. Zehr is encouraging me to go further and engage this contemplative style further in how I photograph, keeping the concept of receiving and image in mind rather than "capturing" one, or "taking" one. The challenge feels like a welcome relief, the good kind of discomfort that leads to change.
What do you think about receiving versus capturing an image? How might that change the way you take photos? Share in the comments. I'm excited to read your thoughts.