Purposeful PhotoBlog: a New Direction for ChinaCoop.net

Just a few days ago, I did something I have not done in years: I added a new category to the photoblog. It may not be a big deal to many of you, and you certainly may not care about something so trivial, but for me, it reveals a further clarification of my approach to photography.

I have been thinking a lot about why I shoot. It could be the frequent reminders from my wonderful wife to keep my priorities in check (Wouldn’t it be horrible to have a wife who adored photography and did not ever question my over zealous investment of time in it?). That helps, but I do not think that is it. It is a long progression of thought, beginning a decade or so ago, and now leading me down this interesting new path.

When I was traipsing around the Chinese countryside with my all-manual film camera and my 50mm lens, I remember some of my thinking toward my photography: I wanted to capture the things I saw that nobody else saw. I did not want fancy lenses to add some effect. I simply wanted a lens that captured what I saw.

When I moved to digital in late 2003, I think I lost sight a little bit. Not until early 2007 did the juices really get flowing again. I have developing my approach a little, but my thoughts now are clearly decended from my film days in the Chinese countryside.

The other day, though, while reading an e-mail (posted online) between the Strobist and the dude at Momenta Workshops (which I have already talked about), something really began to dawn on me. As the Momenta dude explained their approach to teaching young documentarians, I kept hearing him talking about me. A desire to capture that “decisive moment”. A love of telling stories. A passion for the stories around me, which will go untold if I do not tell them.

So, if you have been reading the past few weeks, you have heard me talking about telling stories through photos and not just taking one super shot here and one pretty picture there. It has led me to a decision, though.

As a photographer, I need to learn more and more about telling stories, yes, with photos, but certainly not limited to photos alone. This blog will reflect that focus. Up till now, the only theme to the blog would be the random thoughts from my head that might be useful to other photographers out there. That is not very focused, obviously.

I have probably also been riding a horse a bit too big for me. In other words, accidentally talking as if I knew anything. It is way to easy to slowly create an online alter ego, to begin thinking of ourselves as pro photographers, when really we are two-bit amateurs. To quote Chief Red Garnett (Clint Eastwood) in A Perfect World: “I don’t know nothin’…not one damn thing.” Spoken like a truly experienced pro.

So, I am starting over. I am an amateur photographer. I want to explore the art of telling a story through my photography. And I figure some of what I learn might be of benefit to others out there, so I will share excerpts of my adventure in learning here. It helps to think out loud sometimes; I cannot count the number of times I have realized something as I wrote it here in the blog. So, it is a creative outlet and tool in my learning process, and you are welcome to come along for the ride to learn along with me.

Cooper Strange Written by:


  1. […] few days ago, I put up a tweet referring to my article here about my new photographic journey (the focusing on telling stories thing). Of course, I was too brief, because it is Twitter after all, but it started a strange series of […]

  2. Cooper Strange

    What a perfect place to hide a comment on my own blog? I wonder if anybody ever read this, but really I guess it does not matter much. I found it again quite by accident. I just saw it in a list of posts on the [photo]blog, and wondered what I had said. Wow, it is hard to imagine how much I agree with myself.

    It is easy to slide back into the alter ego of self-styled, photography know-it-all. I do not try to, but the posts are just a reflection of what is going on in my mind. And that is where I agree with myself here: I need to keep focused. And this is not a focus for everybody out there who might actually be reading this, but rather a focus for my own photography.

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