That’s essentially what we do as photographers. Tell viewers to see something. We want them to look there, see what we put in the frame. It’s automatically true that to put a frame around something means to frame out something else. So, what I’m calling you to see, had better be worth your time, and as a storyteller with a camera, I’m creating trust that what I have to show is worth looking at.
As I wrote about previously on the topic of street photography, our photos are a tap on the shoulder, a nod in a direction: “See that!”
I grew up watching Warner Brothers’ Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons, and there would often be tumbleweeds blowing across the desert. But living in Philadelphia, I had never seen a tumbleweed. Was it real, or just something in the cartoon? Out of the imagination of the animator?
I’ve heard there are people who collect them and sell them, shipping to people in boxes so they can have a tumbleweed of their own. How enterprising the humans are! Turns out, they’re quite real.
That’s a tumbleweed blowing across a sidewalk in the small town of Niwot in Boulder County. It’s a real tumbleweed and I saw it and thought that would make a good illustration of what a tumbleweed both looks like and how big one is, since there’s a relationship to its surroundings for scale.
It’s my way as a documentary photographer of saying, “See that, right there. I think I found something of interest to show you.”
What are we photographing and what are we trying to show, or hoping to say? Some of it is, “Look at what I made,” since photography is a show and tell type of art form. Some of it is self-revelation: “This is what I like enough to choose to show you, this is what I like. This is who I am.”
We’re the town crier standing on a soapbox, calling out for attention. “See me here, I have something to say (with our photographs).” We must make sure that we indeed do.