Statement of Purpose

I’ve been taking pictures, on and off, since High School.  I bought my first film camera, an Olympus, when I was 16.  My first digital camera was a Finepix, which I purchased in college, and in 2006 I invested in my first DSLR, a Canon XTi.  I use it mostly to photograph birds, but I have recently started taking portraits and landscape.

It has taken me some time to decide how to approach the subject of photography in a blog.  Part of my trouble lies in the fact that photography is mostly a hobby for me.  I consider myself more of a poet than a photographer.  I studied English as an undergraduate and I am currently finishing a master’s in poetry.  Photography is what I do when I am not writing poems.  I take pictures at my own pace, on my own time and with my own sense of composition.

Over this past year, however, I have begun to realize that poetry and photography share a similar language.   Ezra Pound, for example, wrote “It is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works.”  Without knowing he was a poet, his statement might lead one to believe he was a photographer.

Poetry and photography also share a similar purpose.  The poet Randall Jarrell wrote that we must read poetry “with an attitude that is a mixture of sharp intelligence and of willing emotional empathy.”  That is also true for the photographer.  Photography is a selfish act: we don’t create pictures, we take them.  And so the photographer must approach his or her subject with a greater sense of empathy, a more generous respect and gratitude.

In the end I decided I couldn’t write about photography without also writing about poetry.  What attracts me to photography is the same thing that attracts me to poetry: a depth of imagination, a love of the image, and the desire to probe deeper into the lives that surround me.  I do this not by hiding away at a desk in the dark, but by going out into the world with my camera and my pen.


4 thoughts on “Statement of Purpose

  1. Hi Ryan,
    Beth sent me the link to your blog and I’ve enjoyed following your impressions, verbal and visual, of Asia. Thanks so much!
    ps Remember me? We read poetry together for a couple of days when I visited Beth and Mel… I think of my early days in Japan when I read of your experiences in China 🙂

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