Why I Photograph
I make pictures because that is what I want to do. It’s that simple. At its essence, it is the most honest thing I do. And it has deep authenticity and internal integrity, because, purely and simply, it’s what I want to do.
Sometimes my reasons are high-minded or altruistic and other times they’re downright narcissistic. Sometimes they are all of those things within the same day, or the same hour or even the same moment.
I do it because it is a way to connect with people that would not otherwise be possible. Sometimes I think I can change the world. Or just the viewpoint of one person. It offers me refreshing moments of new intimacy. Sometimes they’re fleeting. It indulges my fantasies. And helps me create them. It lets me believe that I am contributing something to my community. It indulges my hope that I can leave something behind that will be remembered by someone, or by many. It lets me think about a legacy. Mine and that of the people I shoot. I do it because it’s my way of grappling with things I don’t understand. Or things I think I understand differently from others. It makes me feel relevant, and sometimes irrelevant.
I started making pictures because it was a way to escape a structure. It was a way to explore and to go places I wasn’t supposed to go. It gave me an excuse to break the rules and a reason to take risks. As a teen in apartheid South Africa, I would escape with my camera to the black shantytowns riddled with squalor and injustice; places where no white kids wondered. I thought I was documenting the lives of people that were branded ‘lesser than’ and exposing a truth that society denied. I now know better. I was really exploring myself and that journey continues today, as the pictures I make increasingly look at identity and community, and at aging and belonging. I continue to explore and to search by pointing my lens at places or things, both far away and close to home. Often I focus on people in an effort to know them for a moment. The pictures and the process of making them lets us create a currency for mutual exchange. But what I’m really doing is continuing down the road to better understanding myself, my places of fear and fulfillment, in an ongoing effort to spend more of my time and emotional energy in the place I most want to be.
I have done many things in my life, most for multiple extrinsic reasons -- money, status, prestige, peer pressure, or societal expectations -- but taking pictures is what I do simply because it’s what I want to do.