The humbleness in photography is becoming undone

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© Shaun La
Still-Life, Harlem. Photographed on 135 film

As a professional photographer, there has been numerous social occasions, where people would pull out their physical photo-albums & show to me, their physical photographic prints. Some were 4×6 or 5×10 photographic prints breathing behind plastic covers with air coming through the slots where the presenter would slide out their photograph to place into my hands as an invitation to a closer examination. Usually, they would vocally explain to me, “I am not a professional photographer but I love photography.” These people who decided to share their photographic eye with me, held onto the passion of Photography, because I could sense it. I would listen as they retort to me, the learning experiences that came with their first camera. These stories would sprout into how they took a photography class, workshop, had so much fun in a darkroom, but somehow decided to venture into a career that did not stipulate them being a professional photographer; however, they still found the enjoyment in being able to pull out their film cameras during a family event or a free weekend that had them leaving a major city for a mini-vacation on the countryside, fresh air greeting their peace of mind & an Eye feeling the urge to do some Photography.

Progressively in this 21st century, we are a high-speed visual society. Every story is followed up with a “did you take a picture of it?,” “send me that picture, right now,” as soon as the photograph is taken. Behind the scenes photographs are no longer tucked into a drawer to be met later on down the years, but instantly offered to the world, at times, overshadowing the final photographs that erupted from the photography session. Professional photographers are on the side of a river in a society where the ground level is falling deeper & deeper into the shorelines, swarmed by an ocean of photographers who are fashionably drowning out the term “professional.”

Shaun La
Central Park. Photographed on 135 film

The Materials that comes with Seeing:

Candid photography is one of the earliest forms of photography that has ever met the invention of the camera apparatus in the mid 1800’s. Even if the people in the photographs appeared blurry, ghostly, due to shutter-speed issues going through experimental measures. During that time, Photography still rose up to becoming embraced by the scientist, painter, or teacher who did not see a studio element as a ground for their income to be constructed on top of.

We as a society have always had a craving to enjoy the photograph, painting, drawing & its visual dominance; we as a society will always remember to look at the photograph, despite our modern habit of wanting to take photographs more than taking the time out to look at them. Therefore, we cannot battle against knowing that a camera does exist in many shapes & sizes.

Shaun La
Portrait of the Author Shannon Holmes (B-More Careful). Photographed on 135 film

Portrait of the Author Shannon Holmes (B-More Careful). Photographed on 135 film.

However, there is a lost sincerity in Photography, today. Everyone having access to a camera is not necessarily the problem. It would seem like everyone not having a clear motive for holding a camera would be the first stage of problematic frustrations opening up this lost sincerity in Photography. The opportunist can become a photographer overnight & more than ever in the concise history of Photography, the professional photographer is asked to scratch off a photography session because a client’s cousin owns a camera–giving the opportunity to capture moments to a societal habit that balances out saving money in the long run. A long run that belittles photographs undying visual  effectiveness, as time ascends.

Photographic prints are produced on a massive scale, giving the photographer, a pennies on the dollar disparity to their hard work. Therefore, even the photographic print is met with a bargain in the print collecting world; thus, showing that Photography is a disposable entity that starts from the hiring of a photographer to the final outcome—where the photographic print is a tangible reward hassled down to a cheap product.

Shaun La
Midtown Manhattan. Photographed on 135 film

Patterns can stretch the Pace:

I do not want to stand in the center of civilization’s Parade on Photography & throw the fun off by playing a serious tune by pointing to digital photography being the culprit to the need for speed that overflows this visual medium, which contains Photography. Actually, as a professional photographer who works on film only, I think differently when it comes down to pointing the finger at the digital format increasing our greedy outtake & intake with photographs, manipulating us into high-speed visual stalkers. It is not the impulsing intentions of digital photography that makes the spirit of seeing the moment, cocky & impatient.

We as breathing humans made our own pace outdo the practical speed; we made the digital revolution rush us, the digital revolution does not require us to rush (at least from my outsider’s position that is looking in, as a film photographer). Today’s time explains that photographers & their worthiness are defined by how many followers, Likes, shares, & photography driven magazines, popular blogs & social-media websites dedicating a small “too cool” room to their favorite photographer of the famous clan who will spill their self-absorbed philosophies into the Universe with the rewards becoming about achieving even more Likes, shares & a welcome mat to a collection of new followers who will worship their photographic work—rarely, do these famous photographers residing in the center of the spotlight open up their fame to include the world of Photography being bigger than their own self-absorbed philosophies; thus teaching the world about Photography, overall & not just about their own photographic work.

Shaun La
Harlem, New York. Photographed on 135 film.

Fading away are the experiences where I met fellow photographers who did not need the Internet’s compass to find their way to the significance inside of their own work; they were not professionals in the sense that a business made them an economic factor in society, nor did they ask the world to define them as competitors to an unseen Eye Crown worn by famous photographers who have castles on various lands of social-media throughout the Internet. They did not bow down to gallery curators who could hang their work on white walls with high-brow summaries under the framed photographic prints, merging with recessed lighting coming from the ceilings.

Lights of popularity showing the world, the hype behind knowing the right people in the commercial industry of Photography. These photographers who are not professionally connected but humbled with a profound appreciation for this medium found Photography to mean something to their own conscience, their families & friends. It was about their Eye being a member of the unofficial title that still has an undefined branch to its essential meaning: the Photographer. Now, this essential meaning may be hanging out with a pretentious layer that is the new photographer’s motive in a world where one photograph can make you famous on a viral scale. Such a scale kind of collapses down on the candid photographer, or the uncle or aunt who has a camera around their neck.

Shaun la
Occupation Wall Street. Photographed on 135 film.

Let us not forget about the humbleness:

Again, most of these presenters whose visual, frozen moments via photography, resting in their photo-albums, would say to me, “I am not a professional photographer, but I love photography.” I would listen & think to myself, “you are a photographer.” The humbleness in this medium may be dimming away from a society that has the aspirations for Internet fame, influencing so many people to overlook their own potential, because they want to fit into the merits of being a well-known photographer—which at times, could be slightly different than a photographer with good or great photographic work.

Shaun La
Harlem, 125th & Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. Photographed on medium-format film, 120.

Yet, the talented & gifted photographers who are behind their good or great photographs might be the quiet ones hidden from popularity, where you will actually have to share some time, sit down on a couch & turn the pages in order to truly see that Photography is for every one who can agree to the willingness that it takes to truly free up your mind, heart, emotions & thoughts, all for the blessing to completely see Moments reliving themselves–this is a mandate that is impartial to the professional, novice, or hobbyist.

Enjoy Photography.

Words & Photography by: Shaun La.

Shaun La is a photographer & writer. Starting off with the medium of photography at the age of 18 (20 years ago) with a Minolta Hi-Matic & 135 film, the desire to see the moment became a way to envision the possibilities in wanting to be a timer awaiting to see if he could photograph more moments. His photography extends into fashion, street, photojournalism, landscape, still-life & candid realities—still utilizing film cameras only, 135 & medium-format film. As a writer, he has penned numerous essays on various topics, which has been published by the Amsterdam News, the Baltimore Sun, Afro-Punk, Camera Obscura & other media outlets. Currently he is working on his book, “The Perpetual Intellectual View Called Photography: Essays,” & putting together the building blocks for an exhibition on his photography. Please feel free to take the time out to see more of his work & writings, which can be viewed here at his official website: Official website:

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