Cynthia Staples : To Define or Not to Define: That is the Question
Words & Images
To Define or Not to Define: That is the Question
By Cynthia Staples
Recently I overheard a friend describing me to others as a nature photographer. And that's true. I love to walk outside in the woods and by rivers snapping photos of birds and bees and of flowers and the trees. I spend a lot of time outside. But I also love to eat so I spend a good amount of time in the kitchen, as well! Over the years, I've learned that those same elements that catch my eyes in the natural world color, texture, the interplay of light and shadow they draw my attention as I walk through a culinary landscape.
Oh, what sights I have seen, both simple and complex, just in my own kitchen. Sunlight striking a silver spoon. Rosemary growing in a window. Escargot shells gracing a tabletop. Today, I immediately grab my camera and photograph such scenes. I did not always do so. Why? Well, at the time, I too called myself a nature photographer. That's it. Nature. End of story. The great outdoors was my subject, not food. Away my camera was placed as soon as I returned home from one of my nature expeditions. The instinct would be there to take photos in the kitchen but I would always stop myself from seeking out my camera. People were praising my pictures of birds, not requesting images of baking bread no matter how beautifully browned.
Eventually I realized that "people" were not limiting my creativity. I was the one putting the brakes on my professional growth by narrowly defining who I was and what I photographed. Just as I was often paralyzed by the beauty of light dancing on blue waters, I was similarly affected by sunlight illuminating a slice of fruit. Just as I loved the rich mix of textures composing beach sand, so too was I impacted by the multitude of shapes found in a simple bowl of uncooked white rice. Food was beautiful. I joyfully took pictures of blueberries growing wild in Maine. Why not photograph blueberries spilling across a white plate?
Now, not only am I prepared to take impromptu photographs in the kitchen by keeping my camera accessible, I create scenes as well. There's nothing quite like walking down the fresh produce aisle of the grocery store selecting a few ripe red berries from one bin, and dark greens from another bin, purely for their photographic possibilities. I sometimes select items for their taste as well in hopes that I can respectfully consume my subjects at the end of the shoot. This strategy has worked quite well for my stomach except for the time I purchased three wonderfully orange habanero peppers.
Certainly, it may be necessary on occasion to describe only a small part of one's photographic style or choice of subject matter. But in general I will continue to work on not narrowly defining myself or allowing others to do so. Yes, I am a nature photographer. And, yes, I'm a food photographer. If I decide to migrate to other rooms in the house with my camera, I may become a living room photographer, too. In the end, I am simply a photographer with a wide world to explore, both indoors and outside. •
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© 2011 Cynthia Staples. All rights reserved.
Cynthia Staples is a highly creative writer and photographer living in the Boston area. Her words and images capture moments and memories and weave together inspiring stories for her readers. More »