Elliot Erwitt said “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them. You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them. You just have to care about what’s around you and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy.”
Recently, I had the chance to take a trip to Lithuania to help my friend wither adoption. I had one hour between when the plane landed in Frankfurt and when I had to catch my connection to Vilnius. I thought this would be plenty. Little did I know all the shuttling to and from the terminals, or how far I would have to run to get to my gate. I arrived 5 minutes after the last shuttle left the gate, greeted by three overly cheerful attendants who matter-of-factly told me I missed my plane and would have to catch another one.
After crying, re-booking my flight and napping on a bench where I was stared at like a zoo animal, I decided I wasn’t going to waste the next 8 hours. I decided I would make pictures. Deliberately putting a camera around my neck changes how I see the world. Having the luxury of time with absolutely no obligations allowed me to slow down, observe, wait. I felt the energy of the people around me, the rush in every direction. I watched the light change throughout the day and could see the angles, lines, and stories unfolding in the terminal in a way I simply couldn’t have if I was moving from point A to point B.
I think the best photographer can take that way of seeing into the world, with or without a camera in hand. I’ve come to understand that being a photographer, especially a documentary photographer, means making pictures, not taking them. To think deliberately about light, moment, composition, shadow, gesture all at once take practice, and I am certainly still learning. Some photographers wait hours for the right moment to line up with the right light and composition. I am still learning how to anticipate what is going to happen- to compose and wait.
When I’m in the flow, I can see the picture I want to make as the story unfolds around me. It’s not always easy when my subjects are usually kids and families in the thick of every day life and chaos. Taking every opportunity to see the world in a frame, with or without my camera is what pushes me to grow as a photographer. Whether within the walls of my home, a client’s home, or a foreign airport, my camera and my knowledge of photography helps me see the world more deeply and completely.
Guest post writing and images from Documentary Photographer, Jessica Uhler
You can learn more about Jessica and see more of her exceptional photos at the following: