Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The power of sharing

Mid-CT Photography Meetup Group is a local photography group that Diane and I have the great pleasure of associating with. Many of you may be familiar with Mid-CT as both our groups share membership. But that's beside the point.

Tonight they had a guest speaker, Mr. Kenn Venit, a soft spoken and quite humorous journalism professor from Quinnipiac University with a long list of credits to his name. His presentation was on using photojournalism techniques in "personal storytelling". He then proceeded to talk about how he creates personal photo albums to share with his family and friends.

On the surface the presentation appeared to be a letdown. Mr Venit, after all, is talking about taking your snapshots, printing them at your local drug store photo center and putting them in an off-the-shelf photo album. The whole presentation was accompanied by a slide show of several events he photographed for friends and neighbors.

To say Mr. Nevit is NOT a professional photographer is an understatement. But then he never claimed to be one either. Looking at the images being displayed for us it was plainly obvious that his skills were rather... average. He even goes on to brag how he uses inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras to create his albums. Not quite what 'serious' photography students want to hear. However, I thought the whole presentation was brilliant. Here's why;

First and foremost, his explanations of the 'stories' behind the images were extremely moving, beautifully expressing the power a single image can create in the viewer. Link that with the fact that the viewers of many of his photos are also participants in the narrative raises the power of those images ten-fold. The experience of the moment had been caught on 'film' forever preserved for posterity sake. But he is not capturing just a single image. He captures a series of them that, when looked upon as a collective, form to tell the story of the event.

Because Mr. Nevit is not a pro photographer using top quality gear, meticulously manipulating light to create stunning pieces of art shows that ultimately it is not an issue of equipment. The value does not lie in the technical quality of the image but the emotional quality of it. Or, to paraphrase this famous line, "the best camera to have is the one that you have at the time that you need one." Without a camera the moment comes and goes, forever lost to time and memory.

Finally the lesson is concluded with the message about sharing. A photo does not do anyone any good if all it does is spend its life locked away on some hard drive somewhere. As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Nevit doesn't use high end photo centers, printing on archival paper with state-of-the-art color managed photo printers. He is frugal and will often get his images printed for pennies on the dollar at his local drug store. He then loads the images into a binder style photo album to share as gifts.

Hopefully after reading this you will be inspired to think differently about your approach to photo sharing. So take a lesson from Mr. Nevit and remember that you don't need to over think your photography. Next time you are at an event try to think like a photojournalist by trying to capture the story (or stories) unfolding around you. Think in terms of telling the story with a beginning, middle and end. Take lots of images and select those that best convey that story. The images don't need to be Pulitzer Prize worthy, so long as you capture the story. Then, finally, finish the narrative by sharing it with others. After all, a story without readers is not a story. Put your book together and watch the magic happen.

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