I scour the interwebs every day, looking for great photographs and great photographers. So when I came across an online interview with Sebastião Salgado, I was just as delighted as could be. Salgado's work has been hugely influential to an entire generation of photographers, and although he shuns traditional descriptors like "photojournalist", his photographs, like those of W. Eugene Smith before him, are riveting in their storytelling. So when asked what his advice would be for young photographers today, his answer was likewise compelling:
"If you're young and have the time, go and study. Study anthropology, sociology, economy, geopolitics. Study so that you're actually able to understand what you're photographing. What you can photograph and what you should photograph."
Why does this strike such a chord in me? Simple; it's the same advice given me by a remarkable teacher who mentored me and inspired much in my photography career. I would have loved, when I was a kid out of high school, to have gone off to college to study photography, but frankly I didn't know that such programs even existed. And as I look back now, I'm glad for that. In college I studied a lot of art and art history for sure, but my curriculum was pretty traditional. I had the usual round of the social and life sciences, history and math (and beer; it was the University of Wyoming, after all), and then graduate school where I did research in information theory. I kid you not.
So why am I telling you all this? Do I think it's made me a better photographer? Maybe, I hope so, but that's not the point. We need our storytellers, and storytelling requires a broad worldview. They can be powerful, human, truth-to-power; they can be Salgado. They can also, and just as importantly, be personal and intimate: a poem, a watercolor, my portrait of you. But they need to be informed.
Truth is, those voices in our head are worth listening to; they urge us to explore and create, to tell new stories and re-tell the old ones in new ways, to add our own voice to the chorus.
We're waiting to hear from you.