Tuesday, November 17, 2009

When Photography is Like Fishing

“Dave, you’ve been here before,” Phil Douglis, my traveling companion, told me, not long after the sun rose over Monument Valley, in the heart of the Navajo Nation. "You can afford to look for the smaller subjects while the rest of us have to look at the larger scene.”

San Juan Inn Above the San Juan River, Utah

Phil was right. I’ve been to Monument Valley several times, and I’ve made the obligatory photographs of the Totem Poles, the sand dunes, and Salt Creek. On my last trip, the week before last, I turned my attention elsewhere.

Until a couple of years ago, though, I’m not sure I would have been able to turn my camera away from the familiar scenes I knew the rest of our group was photographing. As the trip leader, I used to feel it incumbent upon myself to photograph what the others photographed. In fact, I do photograph the same things. Now, though, I’m more willing to give myself over to other subjects.

At Arches National Park

Our Guides at Monument Valley - Navajo Country

The Totem Poles, Monument Valley

It’s not so important to me now that I make photographs of a particular place, like Monument Valley, or Yellowstone, or Yosemite. It’s more important that I’m making photographs in those places, no matter what the subject

In other words, being somewhere I love, photographing in a place I love, has become more important to me than trying to photograph the place itself. It's a bit like fishing for some people, for whom catching a fish isn't paramount; it's the act of fishing they enjoy.

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