Near the end of the summer, I took a documentary photography class. It was stressed over and over again that to be properly following the documentary approach, you, as the photographer and artist, don’t change anything. You don’t turn a light off or on that wasn’t already there, you don’t encourage a particular wardrobe choice, you don’t ask your subject to do something one more time or to look over there. You also don’t do any kind of heavy-handed post processing – just fairly basic exposure tweaks.
They’re all very old and very accepted tenets of photojournalism. They’re also things that were just a touch past how I’ve been shooting my own life for years and years. Around that time my family was also set to go on our summer road trip. I thought it’d be a great time to really immerse myself in the work for this class, in the documentary approach.
I will be the first to say it, it has been a long time since I’ve been as frustrated with my photography and how I was shooting as I was then. I took my photos, submitted them for assignments, and didn’t give myself too much of a break all through the road trip. Not as an excuse, but I do think that with two small kids and the speed at which they move and the proximity they generally keep to my body, I had a bit of a bonus challenge. We returned from our vacation and I dove headlong into my busy season, not really taking the time to look at my photos from our trip.
Once things lightened up, I did go back and go through to edit those photos, and, you know, I really ended up liking a lot of them. I edited up a set and sent it off to the good friends we had been visiting. Lindsey had heard me complaining enough as we were going about our days there that she knew my frustrations with this whole thing. A few months later, and I’ve looked back over that set a few times now. I love those photos. They have an intimacy and a truth to them that I don’t think a lot of my other work quite has. I can’t say that I’ve kept up this style of shooting exclusively, but it’s something I do hope to become more and more familiar with.
All the best,