Why Photography: Looking for Beauty

I have always admired those who create beautiful things. Books, art, and music bring me joy, and I’m grateful to those who make them.

For most of my life, I admired artists with a twinge of envy. I couldn't create beauty from paper and pencil, canvas and paint, or (despite many years of childhood piano lessons) a musical instrument, and I craved that power. I knew that, with practice, I could become better at these crafts, but deep down I knew I didn't have the gift to create something that I would enjoy consuming.

Then I discovered photography, and it made me view the world differently. 

Snowflakes on my minivan in the grocery store parking lot.

Snowflakes on my minivan in the grocery store parking lot.

I once believed that artists existed in a different realm. Of course, artists walk among us, doing their laundry and paying bills like the rest of us. But I believed that, in their beautiful minds, artists experienced a world that I did not. 

Maybe they do. But beauty is not solely a man-made creation. It’s everywhere, if you only take the time to notice it.

The hydrangea on the other side of the giant pile of snow outside my garage.

The hydrangea on the other side of the giant pile of snow outside my garage.

Learning photography has taught me to see beauty that I once would have missed—the rich winter light in my friend’s kitchen each afternoon, the striking geometry of an otherwise average building, or the way that electronics softly illuminate my child’s face, deep in concentration.

I now see my surroundings differently. I see colors and shadows I never noticed. I experience different kinds of light. I climb on things, lay on the ground, get up close, or distance myself, all in an effort to see different perspectives.

Another photographer asked me to take a self-porrait with a single word that describes what photography means to me.

Another photographer asked me to take a self-porrait with a single word that describes what photography means to me.

Photography led me to discover beautiful things that were there all along. Once I learned that there was beauty to be found amid the laundry piles, I trained myself to look for it and only saw more. This beauty motivated me to improve my photography skills, because I wanted the power to share the beauty I saw with other people. Perhaps I’m lacking an artist’s beautiful mind, but I can use photography to show others the beauty in the world outside my head.

On the next garbage day, I found that my sign had missed the truck and been left in the middle of the snowy, cracked asphalt. 

On the next garbage day, I found that my sign had missed the truck and been left in the middle of the snowy, cracked asphalt. 

Looking for beauty in the everyday inspires me, and discovering beauty keeps me coming back. Creating my own beauty through photography even makes me feel a little bit like the artists I’ve always admired.