The space between us

My father has often pointed out to me, that many of my pursuits or hobbies have been solitary ones. When I was a small kid, I spent a lot of time painting and drawing and much preferred to spend a lot of time on my own. I am to my own admission, a covert introvert. Over my life, I've learned social skills to help me hide the fact that I spend a lot of time looking within, and find the time on my own with my own thoughts something that I really need, and also enjoy.

 When I made this photograph of this small volcanic cone in Argentina, I'm sure I tapped into my ability to remain within the scene while at the same time be outside of it. My camera is a great way of giving space between myself and my subjects.

When I made this photograph of this small volcanic cone in Argentina, I'm sure I tapped into my ability to remain within the scene while at the same time be outside of it. My camera is a great way of giving space between myself and my subjects.

Now before you start to think that I'm someone who's not sociable or able to have a conversation with, those that know me probably find me very chatty and outgoing. The reason why I bring this up, apart from to convince you that I am a normally functioning human being, is that I think one of the true skills of a photographer is to be able to be part of something while at the same time remain outside it. Let me explain further.

In order to really see something for what it may present in picture terms, there needs to be a degree of separating ourselves from what it is we are photographing. We need to be able to look at something differently from those around us. Rather than thinking of our potential subject as something of purpose, we are instead looking at it from an aesthetic point of view. There has to be space between us and our subjects for this to happen. But there also has to be a sense of connectedness to our subjects as well.

I think I have, through my own genetic introversion, gained skills at a young age to be part of what was going on around me, while at the same time remain within myself. This skill has allowed me to be able to exist in the external world while also hold onto my own rich inner-life.

I think this is one of the components of most if not all photographers: we have the ability to be part of our surroundings while at the same time, be separate from them. There is no better tool that I can think of other than the camera which allows us to exist in the world, while also at the same time be outside of it. When we pick up a camera, we create space between ourselves and our subjects. We are no longer part of the scene but instead we are outside of it looking in. And I think this is a situation that many of us find comfortable to be in.

Before you assume that my point of view is that all photographers are introverts (this could be true, it may also be false), the point I am really trying to make today, is that making photographs requires an interesting mix of being able to be part of something while at the same time be outside of it.

If you are someone who has a rich inner-life, then you may find that photography has come naturally to you because it allows you to be outside of the situation, while at the same time part of it. But if you are not an introvert, then maybe this experience of being outside of the scene is still an interesting one for you because it is something you don't normally encounter. It's a real luxury to be able to enjoy something in a way that isn't often encountered in our day to day activities.

Either way, the point I am making today, is that for photography to work, we have to have an interesting mix of being able to be part of the scene we are photographing, while at the same time remain outside of it. Cameras allow us to do that, and I think that's one of the reasons why I was drawn to photography in the first place; It satisfies my need to be part of the world, while at the same time remain outside of it all, looking in.