Nathan's personal blog on all things tech, chiropractic, dance, science, and more.
I spent the past week at the Wedding & Portrait Photographers International conference at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. The conference was great – a bunch of the country's most successful photographers sharing their knowledge and recommendations for how to become a better photographer, including a full session of Ignite-style presentations (which really got me excited). But I also learned some things during the conference that really made me think and wonder... wonder about this world and how little of it I understand... how foreign people and their actions are to me...
The first day of the conference was actually somewhat discouraging. I saw all of this great photography and technique, but somehow it all seemed fake. These were amazing photographers using high tech tools to create incredible images... but images of what? A bride with four swords pointing to her throat. A model with strange make up and hair. A bride standing in a construction zone during the middle of the day. I don't get it! Why these images? Why these poses? Why all this artificial-ness?!
As interesting as these images were, they just didn't make any sense to me. There was no meaning behind them that I could relate to. Then, on the second day, I attended a couple of classes that were a breath of fresh air. Rodney Lough, Jr. is a well known landscape photographer who is often compared to the famous Ansel Adams. He chooses a different style of photography. Indeed, very different. He shoots using an 8x10 film camera (that's a sheet of film as large as a sheet of paper – compared to the more common 1 inch of film in your mom's old camera). When he treks to the backcountry of the most beautiful places on earth, he only has room in his 110 pound pack for enough film to take 5 exposures. After camping for weeks at a time, he considers it a success if he has 1-2 good images. What is more, Rodney's philosophy of photography is to create "a record of a real moment in time captured with the snap of the shutter, and not someone's vision of what might be." When I read that I realized that it fit closely with my idea of photography a few years ago.
Next, I attended a session with Patrick & Amina Moreau of Stillmotion, whose goal is to create a story for couples on their wedding day. Rather than provide a set of questions to their prospective clients about their wedding time and location, they save all those insignificant details for later and ask what their favorite cookie is and what they like to do on Sunday. That is real and sincere!
I was glad to find that among a sea of pretenders, there are still a handful of authentic individuals who embrace reality. And yet, even after these sessions, I realized that there was still a lot that left me uneasy. I began to hear talk of how much couples would invest in their wedding video, or how much a fine art print of Yosemite would go for, and I was shocked. Not only did prices start upwards of $3,000, but some would pay as much as six, fifteen, or thirty thousand dollars just for wedding pictures! Maybe it's my experience passing through the slums of Brazil and Mexico, or maybe it's just naivete, but I simply cannot understand what would justify spending that much money on a collection of photos. Aren't there more pressing needs to attend to first?
I often find myself believing, that as part of our human rights, each one of us has the right to exist peacefully in this world, in a state of minimal suffering. I'm not sure at what level "minimal" is met. But I am pretty sure that if a group of children in an African village are in need of clean water – and that that need can be met at the cost of $5 per person for life – then spending one thousand times that amount on a 3 minute video seems frivolous.
This video by Sarah McLaughlin expresses well how I feel.