The other week I photographed a rally, Families for Justice. They were protesting so that they could get justice for their loved ones. It was emotional as the people there had lost people they loved. People cried and some people were very vocal. I’ve photographed the Hillsborough Memorial event over the past few years and its always been hard to do. How am I supposed to point my camera and get a good photo of someone crying over the death of someone they loved? Its so intrusive. At least it feels that way. But I’ve read about war photographers, specifically James Natchway. He’s incredible. He reminds me why its important to take these photos though. Its to show the world that it happened in the hope that it makes a difference. You tell someone that this happened and its some words. You show them a photo of someone crying and it affects them. One photo can change the world. So its important to take photographs.
But then what am I? My main source of income is commercial photography, not photojournalism.
Am I an architectural photographer?
Am I a commercial photographer?
Am I a portrait photographer?
I can do architecture, landscapes, portraits, gigs, documentary and photojournalism. I would love to have Joe McNally’s job, who wouldn’t eh. Commercial work is fun because its often quite creative and allows me to flex those muscles. However, photojournalism is my passion. Its real. Its so damn real. Its all about life. The power of people. Our ability to be our best and worst documented in one single photo. But then I also love playing with architecture. Angles, contrasts, light, the precision of it all. I love, but am also scared by, portraiture. Capturing someone in that moment of their life. The simple beauty in a face. The story behind that person. Its great.
Its something I’ve struggled with for a few years now. What am I? Where am I going? Do I continue to pursue commercial photography? Do I give it all up and try to be a photojournalist? Do I just carry on in the hope that all these skills will give me something that I can use in some way? Maybe I can pour them all into something. Is it best to focus on something and be great at that instead of good at a few things? By focusing on one thing theres a risk of missing out in other areas.
I asked Twitter what am I known for. The response was something I expected. I really appreciated peoples replies but they confirmed a worry.
I’m known for 2 things really. Photograhping Liverpool and producing HDR images. Thats a worry. Bob Carlos Clarke is known for sexy erotic b&w photos. Joe McNally for fantastic portraits. James Natchway for war photography. Andy Rouse for wildlife. Even Edward Chambre-Hardman for portraits and scenes in Liverpool. My worry is that HDR is a technique. Its something that can be applied to many photographs. Its like b&w. Photographers are known for their use of b&w on a subject, like Bob Carlos Clarke or Ansel Adams. People want photos of buildings perhaps with the level of detail HDR can give you, but they’re not going to want someone who can do HDR. They’ll want someone who can photograph something well. HDR, b&w, etc, are techniques that are applied to a subject. Its the subject thats important. Architecture, landscapes, portraits, documentary, etc.
The other thing I’m known for is Liverpool. Liverpool is one hell of a subject. Music, street, architecture, landscapes, cityscapes, ships, people, documentary, everything. Its a city and it holds so many photos in it waiting to be taken. Its a fantastic place for photography and I love it to bits. However, as a photographer I wouldn’t say that I photograph Liverpool and do HDR. I say I photograph people and places. The classic response is “Do you do weddings?”
So to try and tie up these thoughts, what am I? A few years ago when I discussed turning professional I was reminded that you need to find your niche and own it. Over the years I’ve found what I don’t enjoy photographing and what I love to photograph. Thats why I love Liverpool as it has everything right there, besides dramatic mountains like Vancouver. I asked this question a few years ago and people told me to shoot what I love and be happy. I’ve been doing so and I love it but there’s always this worry. What am I? Am I on the right path?