I have a book of essays by photographers about photography in my library that goes back to the early 1890s. Since then numerous photographers and scholars have attempted to define what photography is including Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Susan Sontag, Marshall McLuhan, Roland Barthes and many more; none of which are in agreement. So there really is not a universal and accepted definition of what photography is. I can only speak of my own understanding of what what photography is through what photography has been to me.
Of course half a century ago when I was beginning my life’s work as a photographer I looked to others for guidance and acceptance. But more than once I was confronted by the old axiom “Art is in the eye of the beholder”, which at first I took as an insult and later realized is an excuse for the observer and says nothing about your images. Yes, I participated in shows and exhibitions in my early days seeking recognition, eavesdropping on the comments of my audiences, and I began to realize others do not recognize anything in common with the images of the world I see. Little by little I gave up showing my work, and I sometimes wonder why my colleagues keep showing theirs.
Of course I publish some of my images within the articles I write about photography, but they have a practical purpose of illustrating graphically what the story is about. What are the results of my tests of tools photographic. So of course I choose those images pragmatically for what they display of what has been done technically. They do not represent what I choose to photograph to express what I see of life and this world.
Upon reflecting on over a half century as a photographer I have come to realize for me photography is my way of engaging life, of connecting with people, places and events. So my photographs are reflections of what I see and recognize in this world that has meaning for me. That others have quite different visions is not a surprise to me, we each live in our own worlds of experience. Sure we share mutually recognized elements, as everyone does except those sad few who hate people and this world we live in. We each have our own strengths in how we engage as we all have different talents and sensibilities. Isn’t that what is expressed in the diversity in all the arts. They express the fact we are all individuals separated from each other by our own uniqueness. But shouldn’t that provide a good reason to appreciate the expressions of others and treasure its diversity? If we all made the same images, spoke the same language, sang the same songs, danced the same steps, life would be an appalling bore and not the exciting challenge to engage that it is.