When no one is watching.
I love my job because I get a firsthand glance at what people do when they think no one is watching.
Let me step back. There are countless reasons I love my job, but this past weekend reminded me and helped me form into words, one fundamental reason that I love what I do.
Often times when the phrase, “what is done when no one is watching,” has negative connotations attached to it. My job begs me to differ with that notion. As a documentary photographer, (please note, this is a drastic generalization) I get paid to people watch and capture what I see, and then I share my findings. The best compliment I have ever heard as a documentarian is, “I had no idea you took that photograph.” Awesome. That means I successfully did my job. I try to go unnoticed when documenting a scene, so being told that my presence went undetected makes my day.
As a documentarian, I get to see a person’s unbridled reaction to a circumstance. That reaction often fuels me at the end of a long day to wake up the next morning and hit the ground running, camera in hand. My job gives me a holistic view of the world around me. I get sneak peaks of people’s most personal and beautiful moments and get to piece all those moments together. It is so easy to be bound by the negativity in our world that people fail to see the beauty that is all around them. My job gives me no excuse to not see beauty in the world. Even some of the bleakest situations can paint a beautiful picture of love, compassion, and kindness, if looked at with the right perspective.
As I said earlier, this past weekend reminded me why I love my job. I spent my weekend in Tupelo, MS, photographing and videoing a retreat held at the church where I worked last summer, the Orchard. All weekend, I moved from house to house, photographing the various small groups and documenting large group gatherings held at the church. At the end of the weekend, I was left with a bundle of images from different settings all communicating one central theme of lives being changed and love being expressed. As someone who has led at a retreat like this as a small group leader, I know firsthand how beautiful it is to see a teen’s life changed. As a documentarian for a whole retreat, I don’t think I can fully express in words how overwhelming and encouraging it is to see a mound of stories about lives changed compiling through the lens of one camera. In short, its awesome.
Weekends like last weekend often leave me speechless and emotionally overwhelmed in the best way possible. I don’t cry when I watch movies, but I do at least tear up during most photo sessions at some point during the process, whether while I am making pictures or editing later.
I could go on and on with examples of the beauty that can be seen when we simply pay attention. Instead I will challenge you to go out and watch the world around you. Just pay attention. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised with what you will discover.
Often times, people do beautiful things when they think no one is watching.