I recently went to the Texas School for Professional Photographers, which is run by the folks in the TPPA, Texas Professional Photographers of America. The TPPA is affiliated with the PPA, our national photographer’s organization. There were 1,005 students from 39 states and 4 countries in attendance. The vibe was amazing. The friendly attitude of helping thy neighbor was evident in almost every photographer present. I spent 5 days with Steve Kozak in a class that covered a lot of material and tested our abilities’ daily. There were good exercises, however, one of them stood out as the most enlightening.
Steve had asked us to bring two of or favorite images to the school. Not our best, but our favorite. After a day or two in class he had us pull out our images and choose our favorite. We all did. He then had us each write about our image. We weren’t allowed to explain any technical data about how we captured the image. Steve wanted our feelings on the image. The emotional side. A stream of consciousness. So we took ten minutes, in a quiet room, and wrote down our thoughts. He asked, “You ready?” We all nodded, and then he asked, “Who first?”
There was an audible gasp throughout the room, not loud but definitely heard. We were not allowed to ad lib, set up the story with background or change what we wrote. There were stories of Love, Loss, Compromise, and Happiness. We had images of Husbands, Wives, Children, all of which were good but made 1000% better once we knew the background as to why the image spoke to the person who captured that moment. That was the purpose of this exercise. To get us to learn how to pass on our feelings behind our images to others, so they can feel what we feel and understand the poignancy of these moments. As Steve walked each image around the room for all to see the creator of the image read their story. There were a lot of tissues passed around that day. Not a dry eye in the room.
My image was “Grandfathers Hands,” and this is what I wrote.
Grandfathers hands. They’re hard yet soft, loving and handy. Built machines and made art. They’ve been through hell. Beaten and broken. They have been held and they have carried the dead. These hands tell the story of my grandfathers life. This image is from one of my last visits with him prior to his passing. These hands saw 96 summers and I feel like everyone is present when I look at this image. I also know that nothing in my life would be what it is if it weren’t for these hands.
It was a day in our class that helped each of us share a part of our lives. The picture can say a thousand words. Sometimes knowing the story behind the image can make the count even higher.
Try this with your family. Have each person get their favorite picture and write down what it means to them. You may be surprised by what you find.