Friday, July 22, 2016

Are you a photographer?

Twice this week I had my camera down by the river, and twice I was asked if I was a photographer.

The first was Monday morning, when I was getting pictures of this flatboat as it tied up at Harris Riverfront Park in beautiful downtown Huntington.

When asked if I was a photographer, I said real photographers -- the ones who shoot weddings and senior portraits and food ads -- would consider me a Walmart photographer instead of a real one. I don't do a lot of heavy Photoshopping. If your eyes are brown, I don't change them to glacier blue. I don't retouch photos to remove skin blemishes or love handles. I don't take six inches off your waist. One guy on the boat pretended to be offended that I don't remove blemishes. I told him it's the old journalist in me. I want my pictures to record the world as it is. He's a recovering journalist himself, so he invited me aboard anyway.

The second time was yesterday evening, by a teenager who saw me trying to get pictures of tracks left behind by people who tried to walk on mud before it had dried out.

I said no, I'm just a guy who takes pictures for fun and manages to sell a few of them for a few bucks. She said she liked taking pictures with her iPhone 5. She showed me some, and she had a couple of decent ones in there. I suggested she email them to the local paper or to a tv station to see if they would be interested in using them.

All in all, I don't care if people consider me a photographer or a photojournalist or whatever. I'm just a guy who likes taking pictures. It's my personal antidepressant, and it's how I keep a record of the people and the world I encounter. I look back at pictures I took with my Kodak Instamatic in the 1960s, my film SLRs in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and my digital cameras in the 2000s and 2010s and am reminded of how much pleasure I got from taking them and how much my descendants someday will enjoy seeing the everyday life of their ancestors.

I've been trying to find old family pictures of relatives who are long gone. At the consumer level, snapshot photography was expensive and time-consuming for a long time. I know some are out there; I just have to find them.

My mother left me a few old river pictures, too, that I will put in that book if I ever get around to writing it.

It may strike some people as odd, but it's what I do.