The title of this article is as pretentious as they come, but if you’re here, you must think that there is some sense to it.
“Change the world” and “photography” is a strange combination, however, if you take a moment to look at the data you’ll find that 80,000,000 photos are published every day on Instagram. Pair this with the fact that there is still much to do to make this world a better one and it’s easy to come to the conclusion that photography, on Instagram alone, can certainly make a difference.
But first, let’s talk about photography…we’ll discuss changing the world in a moment.
Who knows who Henri Cartier-Bresson was?
Perhaps a silly question, but humour me for arguments sake!
Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French photographer who, together with Robert Capa and David Seymour, founded the Magnum agency back in 1947; one of the leading agencies and a reference in photography. Bresson began his work at the beginning of the Second World War, and with his “decisive moment” he popularised one of the most fashionable photographic styles: street photography.
Street photography is all about documenting everyday life, making ordinary moments into something special and in so doing, explaining life itself.
Bresson used to say that to make a good photograph was to “put on the same line of sight the head, the eye and the heart.”
Ok, so it’s a little mystical: He certainly wasn’t talking about cameras nor brands nor megapixels or anything of the sort. So, what in the world did he mean with this?
I’m going to tell you 3 personal stories that to help me explain.
1. The mind.
The logical pillar that affords us an understanding of the environment, the tangible, of money.
One day I was surfing the web (do people still say this?) when I came across a talk by Michio Kaku, a physicist and futurist who was talking about the future of the world economy. I’m not going to get into it, but in short, he was explaining how capitalism is a system that does not seem to be able to change, though paradoxically, it is a system that varies in terms of value since products such as cameras, TV’s or even food, loose their value over time. He goes on to saying that intellectual capital (knowledge, art, science) however, is something that gains value and will continue to do so (right now the richest people in the world are Google programmers, inventors of Facebook, etc.).
The science sector is at the head leading the way, but it’s also an indicator that the rest of the intellectual capital will follow and also gain value over time.
2. The eye.
The eye is creativity, composition, the use of light, the design of the image and the scene. It is the language with which we explain what we want to say.
During one of my workshops a student asked me whether my photos and compositions were the result of luck to which I replied no. Luck in photography exists but is not a determining factor. It’s by practicing and knowing the medium that you learn to anticipate a scene and capture a situation the way you had imagined and designed before they even occur.
Observation together with technique, my eye, is what allows me to anticipate and wait for what I want to happen, happen and capture it at the precise moment.
3. The heart
It’s feeling, the emotional attachment you have for a place, for a person or for a story. The heart is what makes you enjoy and have experiences that change you as a person and it’s also what will open you to having new experiences. It’s what makes you fall in love and it is what will make the difference when you go to explain your story.
A couple of years ago I decided it was time to change my path. I had been working as a professional photographer for over ten years, working in fashion, product photography and advertising, until one day I realised that this type of photography, though financially stable, did not fulfil me on an intellectual level. I had always fantasised about being one of those intrepid National Geographic photographer who travel the world discovering and documenting all kinds of wonders, and on that particular day I decided to take the leap and started looking for a project that could open the doors of this complicated world of work.
For several reasons that are now irrelevant, I decided that my first destination would be Nepal, just one year after the earthquake devastated the country. I thought I could find some interesting stories, and I certainly found them, but they affected me in a much more emotional and personal way than I expected and I quickly realised that I needed to set aside commercial aspect of the trip and surrender myself completely to experiences I was living. I met incredible people and had all kinds of curious and interesting things happened to me. For more than a month I explored the country with no other purpose other than to let myself be amazed. And I fell in love. I fell in love with the country, with the people, with the light and with not always understanding what was going on around me.
Perhaps by chance or perhaps because I was letting myself be engulfed by this country that I had fallen in love with, I had the opportunity to photograph a ceremony that most foreigners don’t get to see and as a result I was able to take one of my best photos. It was a special moment made only more so afterwards when it became my first photo ever published by National Geographic.
So, to summarise, in photography we have logic, creativity and love.
That translates into trips, personal experiences, human connections, asking yourself questions, doing away with prejudices… it affects you in how you relate to others, how you experience the world, and how you explain the world through of your photos… It changes you.
“If you want to change the world, start with yourself.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
And it does not matter if your photos are seen by 100,000 people or by 10 people, there will always be someone you can inspire.
That my friends, is how you can change the world with your photos.
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