Sprawled across the living room couch under dim lights, my wife and I watched Sex and the City 2 last night which I don’t mind re-watching largely because I’m an admirer of the exotic city of Abu Dhabi that serves as a backdrop to the main character’s adventure and because I enjoy spending time with my wife. But beyond the commercialism and over-exposure, we saw a film about a woman that reminded me about something I try to stay true to.
There was a quote in the film where Carrie was anxious and concerned about reading the reviews from her recently published book regarding the topic of marriage. Following a few demoralizing face expressions and a reluctance to read any further, she says to her friends, “Maybe I should have stuck to writing about what I know. Being single.”
The line stood out for me because it’s the same adage you’re told when you have difficulty coming up with a topic to speak or write about. It’s no good writing about things you’re not familiar with because people will always be able to tell when you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone. It would be obvious not only in your writing but specifically through the lack of detail in your stories. How does this relate to photography? Well, I’m a huge proponent about photographers writing more and not just about their work specifically but about their experience in being a photographer.
Nobody has the same brain, the same life history or the same creative perspective as you and in the business of photography, being unique is everything. Take LA street photographer Eric Kim as an example. Leaving aside the fact that he’s a great photographer, the reason he’s been able to aggregate such a well-deserved following within the street photography community is because of his extensive devotion to writing and sharing everything he knows about the genre. I don’t know the guy personally but I feel as if I do perhaps because there’s always a sense of genuineness to how continuously writes what he knows all of which is clearly derived from pure experience.
I can’t write to you about what the most efficient approach would be for tackling a wedding shoot is or how to make a killing selling stock photography because I’ve done neither. Writing what you know means writing with authenticity about thoughts, feelings and mostly importantly life experiences. There’s hundreds of photographers out there who possess the same gear you and I own with the difference that we utilize it under different circumstances and that right there is what makes us distinct.
If you’re ever in dire need to write about something you don’t know, then get to know it either through focused research or direct experience. I don’t know everything there is about photography. In fact, I don’t even know how shoot in Manual Mode yet and I’ve never photographed using a speed light before. 98% of what I shoot is in Aperture Priority under ambient light and it’s these little embarrassing details that I don’t mind sharing because it’s who I am at the moment as a photographer. In a city New York, I could probably instruct you more on how to better navigate through the complicated subway system or direct you towards the best places to eat or which places to visit more than I can ever teach about photographing in a studio using strobes.
The moral of the story is that very much like Carrie, I stick to writing with what I’m familiar with which may not be much but the great thing about the current online photography community I participate in is that there’s people who are more than willing to share their background and practical knowledge on who they are and what they’ve been through to get to where they are as a photographer.