Photograph With Intent

I never imagined how hard it would be to extract something coherent from the 100,000 photos of my last trip. I naively thought I could catalogue, sort and develop all this in a month, two at most. I’ve been on it for almost 5 months now and I’m just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

When I left. I didn’t have any goal, just a vague idea of what I wanted: go and photograph the landscapes and the inhabitants of the Himalayan regions of Nepal and India — a vast program indeed. When I leave I like to let myself be carried away in the moment, adjust my course according to my desires, to the constraints and opportunities. It is this feeling of freedom that I often seek through the journey. But in photography, as in any other creative discipline, if you don’t focus on a theme, a style or a direction, you tend to take pictures of everything and anything. You get dispersed. The result is a staggering quantity of images without coherence, a mish-mash of unfinished ideas. A lot of work is then required to try to stick the pieces together and get something out of them… when it’s possible.

On the one hand, being open to everything, leaving room for unbridled creativity leads us to discover new horizons, new interests, new ways of seeing things… On the other hand leaving with an intent — or finding it on the way — gives us the opportunity to work within a frame and thus discover or realize ourselves there. Don’t we go further, aren’t we more creative when we follow a direction than by advancing at random? A photograph is already a frame — two dimensions with a defined size and working only one of our senses — in which we try to transmit sensations, emotions, memories… These constraints are already the reason of the creativity used to transmit our message. So why not go further and direct this creative flow with an intent?

Following my previous Himalayan experience in 2013 where I had to carefully select what I was photographing because of a crucial lack of memory cards, this time I had the trigger far too easy. The result was a considerable quantity of duplicates — burst mode obliges — and of pictures without interest — the fear to miss the ultimate moment. I found myself at one point with over 200 photos of guys planing frames. Useless to say that none of these shots were actually interesting… except that they gave me the chance to spend some good time with these carpenters. But for that a few photos would have been enough. 9 months working like that, without direction but with more than enough memory cards, lead me in front of this chaotic mass of photographs I had to go through again and again in order to extract something coherent.

Of course, we all make mistakes and it’s no use biting one’s own fingers forever. After having weighed on them and paid the price, it is now time to learn because that’s the whole point of making mistakes. For my part, I will now try to photograph with intent, which should not prevent me from seeing what is happening outside my frame but rather encourage me to take a direction and explore it in detail instead of scattering myself. A hiker can of course leave without plan nor compass and wander according to his desires. But he will go further if he targets a point on the map and uses his compass to get there. This does not prevent him — and he often has no choice — from snaking along his course in order to fulfill his goal. I am now convinced that it is the same for a photographer.

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