Why Do You Photograph What You Do?

November 24, 2009  |  The Creative Process

I was asked this question the other night when Tim and I were speaking to a group of photographers about our work. Someone from the group asked, what makes you want to photograph the people and issues that you do?

I often ask myself this question and I think it is good to be mindful of that question every day I photograph. My hope is that I start a dialogue about the issue I am documenting, that I honor the people in my photos and that I give a voice to people who rarely have one.

Whenever I get disheartened, I remember one of my favorite stories:

One day a man was walking his dog along the beach after a storm. The tide had washed thousands of starfish onto the beach. They were still alive, but only just. A woman was making her way along the shore, throwing starfish into the sea, one by one.


“Hey, ” the man called out. “there are thousands of starfish on the beach. You’re not going to make a blind bit of difference!”


The woman stooped, picked up a starfish and threw it back into the sea. Then she smiled at the man and said, “Made a difference to that one!”

I love that story! It reminds us to think about individuals, and not about the big picture. The big picture is extremely important but I find that looking at the big picture often holds me from thinking I can make a difference and actually contribute to global issues.

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