It is time for the Worldwide Photo Walk. It will be on October 13th, and our local group will be walking the quaint Village of Salado. Salado should provide plenty of interesting shooting, since it hosts of variety of artists itself, everything from musicians, to painters, to glass blowers. On top of that, Salado boasts quite an old and storied history for this part of the world. The buildings themselves tell a story which goes back many generations. If you are wondering what a “photo walk” is, it is really just a good excuse to get out and take some pictures. I have never taken anything earth-shattering, but I have had fun, which tells me the photo walk is more about the people than the photos themselves. You can talk gear to folks who will not roll their eyes; you can ask questions about types of photography you have not…
Merely writing that title before I begin writing makes me worry this will become a soapbox post. Or is that monologue-in-waiting just a defense mechanism welling up to cover my deeper insecurities about whether I am attempting to sell out my own vision to money or notoriety? Translated: am I letting my attempt for extra cash for new gear or my pagerank on Google edge out the reason I shoot in the first place?
A friend recently asked me in an e-mail: “interesting to see something of what you are up to [in photography] … though I recognise that the photos don’t represent life per se.” Meaning, I have striven for many years not only to capture life around me, but to dig deeper to try to find moments which can be captured which show us a glimpse of reality, Truth, and beauty. And when I say “beauty”, I do not mean simply a pretty picture; I mean beauty which points to something much more “real”, much larger. Maybe that is the beauty of a kiss, or better yet, the beauty of the ten thousandth kiss between a couple now battling together against cancer.
Whoa, there. Pull back on those reins big fella. I need to get back to the original question of selling out. Yet I still feel it is helpful (if only for myself) to define again why I do photography before I try to decide what selling out would even look like in my case. How would I recognize it if I were letting go of my vision or style just for cash or fame?
I am just now beginning to face the brute reality of setting up as a photographer here in the Temple-Belton-Killeen. When I lived in Asia, I did not really have to advertise that I did weddings: because I was not a local, I did not really have the style the locals like, and among friends and coworkers, those who wanted me knew where to find me. Not so here in the US. I have to make myself known, and figured it was a good time to create my first wedding photography portfolio:
It is easy to enjoy photography, but sometimes, it is much less easy to feel like I am serving any higher purpose than just satisfying my own desires. A quasi-family member of mine (back in China, this relative certainly had a title, but “brother’s brother-in-law” is the best I can find in English) will soon be leaving as a photojournalist for a non-profit organization and I wanted to send a note of encouragement.
I have thoroughly enjoyed watching you develop photographically. You have certainly taken the fast track — you do know that is always the more painful option, right 🙂 — and jumped in with everything you have.
It is easy, as photographers, to doubt the “spirituality” of what we do. Indeed, there is a time to put down the camera and remove the glass barrier between you and the people, but there is so much more to this job, so much that truly is a spiritual sacrifice to the Lord.
So, here it is, the new, but totally unimproved, website. I have stuck with the ChinaCoop moniker for many years now, and I hate to leave it behind. “ChinaCoop.net” is not exactly a great way to market my services in the United States, though. Nothing against China, of course (I did live there for ten years, afterall), but clients back in Central Texas would pass right by the site thinking Google had gotten something wrong. So, as much as I hesitate to use my name, because is just feels conceited to do so, the name is the only choice I can see. And thus: CooperStrange.com is born.
“Anyone can cook, but only the fearless can be great” (Ratatouille). Today, I received an e-mail update with a great photo summing up the whole story. It really was a top-quality photo, even though an accident. Of course, maybe that is what makes it so great. It has that Lartigue effect (a not-yet-13-year-old Parisian boy who took some incredible photos).
The update came from some friends in China whose young daughter had just successfully undergone heart surgery this morning. Obviously, that is scary, a lot of emotions are involved, and words alone are usually all we get through e-mail updates from friends. Ok, maybe we get some snapshot. This too was a snapshot, but a powerful one. Photography can be so incredibly powerful, if wielded well.
All day long, though he knows it is rarely visible in the day, my boy is asking about the “mooyn”. Every circle is a moon, not a ball or even a sun…it is a moon. Even my SmugMug camera strap, which features a simple smiley face (two dot eyes and a crescent looking mouth) is a moon and two stars to him.
What is the difference between photojournalism, editorial photography, documentary photography, and telling a “photo story”? Well, I wish I knew. The last one seems to be an attempt to leave the terms behind and go with an obvious meaning which does not need defining. The other three seem to be interchangeable, if not, then quite close to it.
“Photojournalism” is probably the most well know of those terms. We think of news photographers, war photographers, and the like. That one, even if it does have some other definition, already has a practical definition in the minds of common man.
A 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 replies that brought up another topic entirely, one worth thinking through here, in case it might be of benefit to any of you.
Cooper Strange I feel like I am starting a whole new photographic journey. WHY do I shoot? http://bit.ly/klT7Y
****** I feel like I am starting a whole new photographic journey. WHY do I shoot? (via @CooperStrange) Whatever makes you smile and feel satisfied
Evidently, to earn merit, Thai Buddhists will drape string around the neighborhood. I asked about it a few days ago when I first noticed, but by now, it is broken, hanging limp, tangled, and soiled. So,this past Saturday, out on my Saturday morning walk with my son, I inwardly thought it would be funny to “follow the thread of the story”.
I never intended to actually use the photos. More than likely, I thought I would browse them, glean a few storying pointers, and file them away. And that is what I did.