Photography

On Photography and Storytelling


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“Don’t do what you should do. Do what you want to do.”

I was an amateur with a point & shoot camera among photography students and some other professionals. Naturally, I felt inadequate and uncertain. But my mentor, he told me to do what I wanted to do and not what I should do. And I did. I may not have done better in the end, but at the very least, the journey was a lot more enjoyable and that was all that mattered. Don’t be too caught up in telling stories that are in demand; focus first on telling stories that you want to tell and to people who want to listen. That, I learned.

My mentor was always too kind with his words. He told me that he felt like there’s something different about my photographs and that there were stories to them. Perhaps because of your background, he said. I was telling stories through the eyes of a literature student, not a visual art student.

Although I got what he meant, I wasn’t convinced my works had that quality, and I still am not. My works sat in the exhibition room like wallflowers do at the back of a classroom. They didn’t immediately draw you in, and I wasn’t even sure if anyone looked at them. To be honest, I didn’t feel good about my own works. But his words made me see it in a different light: Photography isn’t just about being epic and eye-catching. It is also a medium to tell stories.

While my photography skills are still nowhere near being excellent, I hope that someday my photographs will start telling stories that would make people feel something. They don’t have to become the life of the party; they can still be wallflowers, but wallflowers who tell great stories to those who would listen.