Thoughts Over Morning Coffee

By Richard Young


"Photography doesn't start with the landscape or the camera; it starts with us."

As a creative photographer, I think more about why I photograph and what I'm trying to express than I do making or editing photographs. Each morning, I wake up early and make a coffee - fresh espresso, of course - like many things; coffee is worth taking time in its preparation, enjoying the art of creation. I'll sit on the couch for about an hour reading photography books and magazine articles (plus watching the odd YouTube video) from photographers I admire.

Often I will just read, but sometimes I will have a creative thought process, and I have to write down a few notes; this is how most of my articles for the magazine start, a thought over morning coffee. These thoughts are often continuations on topics explored in the two ebooks I wrote with Ken Wright in 2020 on Style & Vision and Expressive Photography.


Over the last year, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about why I make photographs, what I'm trying to express, and what stands my work apart from others who work in the same landscapes. I'm not referring to how I can create better images than them. In fact, I'm less and less worried about external validation of my work. It's more about trying to understand why I am creating images to start with. What are my photographs telling me about myself? What is the relationship with the subject that I'm trying to express? 

For me, the camera unlocks more about me than the object I am photographing. And really, this is why I photograph these days. I photograph more to understand myself and express my relationship with the landscape rather than capture images representing landscapes I visit. A great photograph is like a great coffee, not simply the end product but about a process of creation. Of course, there's a technical side, a skill, but the use of this must be guided by intent. We can't simply use a set process to make the best photograph. What are we even aiming for, and how do you define the "best" photograph?

As we grow, our tastes will change, our expectations will increase, and we may be less content with what was once considered good enough. So I encourage you, not just to go out and photograph, not just to spend your time editing images; spend your time thinking about your work, thinking about what you're trying to express. And when you are out photographing, enjoy the process of creation, not just the final product.

Read the full article by Richard Young in Issue 54 of NZPhotographer magazine.

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