HOW TO TUESDAY #32 Finding the WHY as a Visual Artist and Letting it Drive your WHERE / by Zack Smith

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First a little background on the "why" of this Blog.

In 2008 I began offering a Digital 101 photography course through the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts where I have been teaching since around 2003. This course was designed for the "right out the box" shooter and the DSLR novice who wanted to get a handle on the external, internal, and "what the hell does this button do" features of their new, or new-ish cameras. In those courses I had alot of people come in with Camera Overkill. That's when someone suggests, or you buy, a camera that is too advanced for your current photographic and technical knowledge and you become overwhelmed. I often see this person get frustrated and either abandon the camera, or photography all together, and go back to what they show with before - usually a cell phone.

Every once an a while I would have those students that were so dedicated to learning their camera that they dedicated their days, nights, and weekends to it. The camera became their pillow, their steering wheel, their cell phone. Sometimes you could see a clear voice in their work through consistency in composition, color styles, and they way they related to their subject. You could tell they "got" it....I believe these students, though early in their careers, had already identified their "why". Some did not know it, some did. But their "why" gave their search for knowledge a real purpose. The oft confusing terminologies of aperture, depth of field, pixels, and shutter speed made sense not because they were smarter than the rest...but they could see the light at the end of the photographic tunnel. They had the "WHY"

Last year I paused on teaching this Digital 101 course and started to offer a new course called Portfolio Critique and Project Mentorship. With 6 photographers in this class, we are just about to finish our last class this week and it has been a joy to teach. These 6 photographers are all at different levels in their careers but there is so much promise since there is a clear WHY in all the work they do. Each photographer has keen sense of who they are, what they want to shoot, and this class is geared to help them navigate the best way to get their work out there. I guess you could call this class the WHERE of photography...find your WHY and then your WHERE and you're there. (Hey, that's catchy...)

As visual storytellers we are driven by the WHY. Over the years we have mastered the tools of our trade and are thus allowed the freedom to use them in ways we never dreamed, and are only limited by our imagination.

See like the Camera. Photographers should try this little meditation

1. Put the Camera Down

2. Sit in a Quiet Room without your phone, TV, or radio to disturb you

3. Close Your Eyes...and Clear Your Mind

When you get there...try to envision your camera as a microphone or writing pad instead. How easy the words flow on page and how they sound in your years. Think how effortless it is to get the story. If photography could be that easy...that effortless...what would you photograph and why?

Try this at home. Find the WHY....then get out THERE!