I Didn’t Choose Photography, It Chose Me!

I never woke up one morning and decided to be a photographer, I never made a conscious decision to be interested in photography and I never sat down as a child and thought that photography would be with me throughout my life.

It seeped into my consciousness, it crept in without any invitation and made its home in my mind. I must have allowed it to do so, I certainly didn’t object.

How did it do this? I’m not sure, but I have a few ideas.

Initially, it came through my father, and weekly trips to the local camera shop to drop off film, and pick up prints in folded paper envelopes. Small perfectly formed packages of expectation.

It surrounded me in posters, magazines, books, newspapers and on album covers.

It was everywhere, and yet it was inaccessible. Expensive, technically challenging and in my mind created by a specialist breed of people whom I had never met. We all took family pictures of holidays and birthday’s, but where did these other photographs come from?

It was not until I started working on a magazine in 1985, that I began to find out. Photography became the central medium of my career as a magazine designer. I wanted to know more. Photography had its hooks in me, and it wasn’t going to let me go. I started reading anything, and everything about photography and it’s history. I wasn’t interested in the ‘how’ but the ‘why’.

That sense of his inquiry has never left me.

Twenty years ago I picked up some Hasselblads, a light meter and a few rolls of film and began to work as a commissioned photographer. I became one of those creators that I previously had no knowledge of. I was a photographer creating the same images that had first introduced me to the medium. I had become a pusher for the photographic drug.

Once hooked, my addiction grew and I found myself curating exhibitions, art directing photography magazines, editing photography magazines, putting on my own exhibitions and writing about photography. From there it was a small step into lecturing on the medium alongside all of my other touch points with image making. When people ask me what I do, I always say that I earn my living through photography. My addiction is my profession.

We all have our own relationship with photography, it is personal to us and cannot be replicated as a ‘one size fitsall’ template. The camera we use may be based on replicated technological and design formats, but our interpretation of what we choose to see and record will always be based on who we are and who we want to be. As I say I never sat down and made a decision to be a photographer, it just happened, slowly but surely.

Grant Scott is the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, documentary filmmaker, BBC Radio contributor and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019).

Grant’s book What Does Photography Mean to You? including 89 photographers who have contributed to the A Photographic Life podcast is on sale now £9.99 https://bluecoatpress.co.uk/product/what-does-photography-mean-to-you/

© Grant Scott 2021

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