It’s rare that I would stay up late to watch a TV show mostly because I rather record them and later bypass all the uninteresting commercials one typically has to sit through but the other night, I made the exception and watched like a true fan the premiere of season 8 of Anthony Bourdains’ No Reservations.
The guy has a way with words. The blend of intelligence and brutally honest views that you hear from this man has in my opinion raised the bar for what I now expect to learn from travel shows. He globetrotters the world as most of us daydream about, he’s open about his distaste for most things Food Network, he eats subjectively good food while somehow still staying slim but above everything else, he sees places and meets amazing people which he wouldn’t have otherwise been able to experience had it not been for the “second life” he often refers to being given.
In between his entertaining anecdotes on the show, his self-deprecating humor and his weakness for profanity, I like to think I’ve extracted a decent amount of information for amateur photographers like myself who want to continue to feel motivated to shoot in spite of the inescapable dry spells that frequently haunt us.
They say inspiration comes from the strangest of places so while the show may necessarily be about photography per say, hopefully you’ll understand that sometimes you don’t necessarily have to always be involved in your own pastime to feel that’s the only way you can actually improve on it. This applies to whatever your hobby may be. In this case, it’s photography for me.
The following are some unexpected lessons I’ve learned about photography from watching the show and I’m using the words “lessons on photography” very loosely because none of it involves teaching me anything technical but more on the inspirational/enlightening aspect. It may or may not relate to all type of photographers but either way, I figured there was no harm in sharing them:
If there’s one thing you’ll rarely find Anthony doing on the show is him touring predictable landmarks such as the Pyramids of Giza, the London Eye, the Empire State Building or The Coliseum. If this is the type of touristy stuff you expect to digest from this travel show, you’ll surely be disappointed and hopefully in a good way because how many time can you watch host talk about the same facts over and over again. Needless to say this is not your typical travel show and that in itself adds to its uniqueness.
As it relates to photography, anything that you think you should photograph such notable landmarks, you should probably reconsider shooting because there’s countless imagery of it everywhere already. Interesting photographs are about a person’s unique voice and perspective and so unless you can manage to capture something different in a place where thousand others have already tried, the probability of being distinct is low.
You’re likely to get a greater sense of a place over a warm meal with a person than you are from a travel guide or reading a book. The times I’ve traveled, I’ve never been under the guidance of a local to show me off the beaten path places but I’ve coincidently been on the other end once when documentary photographer Martin Herrera was vacationing in New York. He had never been to Bushwick mostly because it’s not the best of neighborhoods but I frequent it enough that I feel comfortable zig-zagging in between blocks as if I were a well adjusted resident.
Sometimes we get so caught up with wanting the life of a particular profession that we forget that we have to have a life in order to make having that title worthwhile in the first place.
It’s never too late to develop an interest for something. For Tony, writing was an art he occasionally dabbled with and it wasn’t until a wildly popular piece that was published in The New Yorker that he realized he was good at something other than standing for 12 hours in a kitchen, drinking or getting stoned. I wouldn’t say I was a late bloomer with photography but even if I was, there’s an endless amount of information and inspiration now that anyone can take to get started.
Don’t take yourself too seriously or else you’ll get obsessed with the need for everything to be perfect and you’ll more than likely end up producing nothing or meeting anyone. This has happen countless times before. I no longer walk out thinking one perfect shot is all it will take to assure me that my outing was worth executing. I prefer to shoot in sequence where most of what I see and all the people I meet contribute as much to the experience of being in a place.
More of us should have a sense of wonder - as fear and ignorance generally leads to no where. Apparently this seems to be the case in most places but personally, it was both baffling and embarrassing to hear out-of-town friends know more about my city than I. I don’t know every nook and cranny of New York now but I’m absolutely more cognizant of neighborhoods than I ever was prior to having started tinkering with photography.
It’s all subjective as to whether any of these observations make someone a better photographer. I love the show and I continousely feel inspired to rethink the stuff I’ve typcially shot because of it and if it weren’t obvious already, I noticed that a lot of my work now revolves more around people than it does around places and things the way it use to be when I first started.