It was too hot to cook at home last night. The boy abandoned us to go to a concert in the park with friends. So Belinda and I did what we used to do years ago when we worked together at the same advertising agency, we headed out to have a fun Tex-Mex meal. Not fancy food. Just Tex-Mex. If it's reviewed in Texas Monthly Magazine or raved about on Twitter chances are the venue has been discovered and destroyed by the monstrous invasion of hipsters that have descended upon Austin like loud vultures at a buffet. We headed to the place we know with the fewest stars on the review sites. We headed to El Mercado where the staff is friendly and laid back, the regulars drink at the bar and there's hardly anything on the menu that costs more than $10 bucks.
We crunched on a basket of chips and sloshed them around in a comfortable but indifferent hot sauce and nursed a couple of ice teas. It was so pleasant and unpretentious and so not loud.
And it dawned on me as the last light of the day tumbled and flowed and crept through the window that I had just, in that moment, figured out the whole secret of why I take photographs. I photograph people to show everyone else how amazingly beautiful these subjects are to me. If I'm out scouting for images on the street I tend to substitute easily accessible subject matter for what I really want to shoot: beautiful people. When I shoot stuff on the street I sometimes come home feeling empty and indifferent to the practice of photography. The times that I'm happy with my work are the times I've found an interesting person to photograph and had the courage to engage them.
The subjects we really choose to photograph are a mirror to who we are. They are our aspiration. They are our intention. There are really only a few critical choices in the art of picture taking. The most important is choosing your subject. If you aren't shooting something you love or are deeply, deeply interested in then you are just wasting your time. The selection of subject is the critical thing. It's the only important thing. I know I love to make portraits of people. Why take anything else?
The next important thing that you get to control is where you stand. And then you get to control when you click the shutter. Everything else is window dressing. The techniques and esoteric lenses and all the rest, when used to shoot something you really don't care about, are really just window dressing and obfuscation. They are pink saccharine icing on a mediocre and stale cake.
The secret to success in photography is to shoot and show only what you love. That's it. It's so easy. It's amazingly easy. And it makes me wonder why we've worked so hard to make it all seem so complicated.
This is a photograph of Belinda. She is a never ending source of inspiration for me. The Muse who informs and adds some residual energy to every other portrait I make for me. It's all about the subject. Not about the craft or the frame or the manifesto. Just the love for your subject.
Tech note: Samsung NX300 camera with 30mm lens.