Three genres have been at the core of my photography for years now. My experience doing studio portraits gave me a solid understanding of creating light, softening it and directing it for the subject. Landscape photography was born out of my love for hiking, nature and a cinematic vision for that work. Street photography sprouted from the small cameras I could carry as I walked the streets of my home city and the world at large. I've tried being a professional, reverted to an amateur, now landing on "occasionally professional when someone asks".
A seemingly trivial aspect of it all is the ability to actually define what it is you do to people who ask about it and in some ways even to yourself. It feels a little weird to label myself as anything else than just a photographer. The problem is when I tell people I'm a photographer, assumptions fly and I'm stuck trying to describe the type of photography I practice.
"Err, I do street photography and sometimes portraits of friends, but now I shoot film and also love hiking and take landscapes at the same time but a few times a year I do head shots and a wedding or two..."
Most of the time, the associations made to "photographer" seems to be weddings or a professional of some kind, say a head shot or event photographer. The fact is that after eight years I still photograph almost everything, from street moments to landscapes to portraits and still life, and almost always for myself, not professionally.
Is there a name for the kind of photographer I am that does a good job of conveying it in a few words?
I was reading Johnny Patience's photo blog and noticed he explicitly called himself a "fine art photographer" on his website. It got me thinking... That is my goal, isn't it? My goal has always been to create photographs I would describe as beautiful or fascinating, even in the smaller personal moments. Maybe I'm a fine art photographer.
What about that street and personal photography? That falls under what you might call "documentary photography". The only issue there is that it makes me think of photojournalism — National Geographic, wars, riots and grand human events. So I looked it up and found that the term simply applies to the chronicling of events, whether large or small. My street and personal photography fits under that umbrella I suppose.
So with all of that in mind, I think I would most accurately describe myself as a documentary and fine art photographer. That sounds kinda nice, and much easier to work when explaining what I do to people. At the end of the day, documentary photography is the much larger part of my work but fine art is still always the goal, whether it's street, portrait or landscapes.
Does it even matter? At the end of the day, I'm still just a human being with a camera and some film.