Great gear is good; marketing is important; networking is necessary.
Now, strip all of that stuff away.
Vision‚ your singular vision, is the bedrock of your photography business. Vision is the cornerstone of marketing, it turns networking into relationship building and it transcends gear and gadgets. It’s the simplest concept to understand and the most difficult to master.
I think it’s because unearthing your vision requires vulnerability. It takes courage and humility to delve into aspects of your life, your upbringing, your mistakes, your experiences, your fears and your joys that make you who you are today. Who you are is the most important thing about photography.
If you’re looking for a place to start searching for your vision, begin with Bryan Moss’s book Photosynthesis. It’s the only photography book I’ve read that has more to do with life than with photographs.
Bryan is like the Joe Buissink of the photojournalism world. He’s a gentle, inspiring educator and a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. Bryan weaves words and images together to convey a simple yet elegant philosophy that has little to do with f-stops, shutter speeds or lighting diagrams.
The first few pages give a glimpse into the book’s unpretentious goal: reconnecting us to the photographic process that happens in our own minds and hearts.
“Photography is a way of capturing memories, of pinning them down. As soon as George Eastman put Kodak Brownies into the hands of the masses, that’s how they instinctively put them to use, making untold billions of pictures of people doing ordinary things. Grandparents on porches. Children saying cheese.”
Each chapter is a few pages long and contains images and insights about creativity, photography and spirituality. The images are unassuming; there are more photos of family than of famine. Photographs of little league baseball and senior prom are accompanied by wisdom from Bryan and folks he admires. It’s really more like a love poem to photographers than a how-to guide.
As Bryan says with characteristically plain eloquence, “The camera is just a machine. It computes exposure and handles focus very well. But it doesn’t think or feel. Thinking and feeling require the human touch of a photographer.”
Most important, I think the book is a tool for anyone who’s ready to dig into their lives to discover their personal vision.
Barely bigger than an iPad, Photosynthesis is a small book with a big impact. You can read it in an afternoon but its legacy lasts a lifetime.