I've been asked this question a lot, and I find myself asking others ever more frequently. Curiosity begins the conversation, and where it leads has always been a surprise. Responses vary from stress relief, to photography as an element of a budding career. Once however, I got the most interesting response: "You know, I'm not really sure. I just do."
That last one, draped in beautiful naivety to why someone pours hours and hours into a photo, but doesn't actually know why they do it, really made me think. I found myself asking why I take photos, why I spend afternoons chasing spiders through brambles, or long evenings waiting for a star-trail image to finish exposing. For such a simple question, it required a lot of hard thought to reach an answer, and an incomplete one at that.
Ultimately, while I enjoy taking a photograph, the process of imagining an image and working to make it a reality, that simply isn't enough. The image alone just doesn't pay the satisfaction bills.
But what about getting out there, seeing all these beautiful places that I'm fortunate enough to capture? Doesn't that cut it?
What I found, what I think I found, is that photography really doesn't pay off emotionally until I finally get to the point of showing an image to someone. Posting photos innocuously online isn't enough, I want to see their face, I need to see the emotion in their eyes when they see what I've created.
I have to be convinced that they are inspired emotionally, that the viewer and I share a common ground of wonder and appreciation for the scene which is now before them. I don't want someone to see my image and think "that is a beautiful photo," I want them to think "What a beautiful world we live in!"
Do I enjoy positive comments on my images? Absolutely. The bottom line, however, is that I'm not looking to impress anyone. I'm looking to make a connection. I can't speak to the exact reasons why, but it is as simple as that, a desire to feel connected on such a deep and personal level that only an appreciation of our world's beauty can foster.
So, with that said, I'm going to ask the same question that continues to send me down the same rabbit hole. Whether with a phone, a disposable camera (remember those?), or a DSLR, everyone takes photos.
So, why do you shoot?