Defining Your Photographic Testament to Refine and Strengthen Your Photographic Approach

Define Your Photographic Testament to Refine and Strengthen Your Photographic Approach

Is your chief ambition to create interesting photos? You may want to impart them with a deeper meaning so that your audience can contemplate your photographs, thus sparking a lively discussion.

You have probably realized that this is not easy. Only relying on your camera is not enough. You need other tools.

In this article, I propose an innovative tool that will help you in your photographic process. You will be surprised by its simplicity and efficiency.

This article will help you understand how to implement a new tool in your photography toolbox. By implementing it, you will make your photos even more interesting and instill in them true meaning.

This photograph in black and white of a tree on the heights of the Black Canyon in Colorado will be a part of my photographic testament.
This photograph in black and white of a tree on the heights of the Black Canyon in Colorado will be a part of my photographic testament.

Introduction

Every morning when I wake, I think about the actions I can take for that day which can benefit the earth or humanity. These actions are the small stones of the legacy of my life. It is my personal contribution to the world. I ask myself “What I can do for others?” rather than “What can others do for me?”

Maybe I will call someone to check in. Maybe I will plant a seed or plant a flowering bush to attract butterflies or insects. There are plenty of opportunities to build something beautiful with purpose.

Since I have been living in the United States, I have learned a method of living called the “Compound Effect”. Every day you strive to accomplish one small thing. The repetition of these small actions means that over a long period of time, the effects become visible and measurable. I also apply this method in my work as a professional photographer.

The purpose of all of my small actions is to instill meaning, not only into my life, but also into my photographic activity. I want to leave a trace of myself. I want to be remembered. It is for this reason that I created and developed the concept of “the photographic approach”.

All of the topics of my blog's columns are meant to share my learnings and my knowledge with you, my readers. This column is special because the tool I discovered a short time ago is innovative. It should help you create even more interesting and meaningful photos.

The Story Behind This Article

Recently, an American art magazine interviewed me.

The editor had discovered my work as an artist photographer. He was surprised by my conceptual art photos and by the articles published on my blog about the photographic approach. He wanted to know more about me. He asked a journalist from the editorial office to contact me.

The interview had to fit on one page of the magazine. The journalist asked me six questions. These are the first five questions he asked me:

  • Can you tell me about your brand?
  • When did you know this was the right path for you?
  • What do you like most about your job?
  • What has been the most challenging part of your career?
  • If the phone were to ring now with the call to fulfill a dream, what would it be?

The most surprising question is undoubtedly the sixth and last one:

  • How do you want people to remember your career?

I was speechless for at least thirty seconds. No one had ever asked me that question. The reporter remained patient. Surely every artist interviewed must have had a similar reaction when they heard that question.

After a moment that seemed like an eternity, I finally answered:

“I would like people to remember me as a person who created photos to help others get better. I would like people to remember me as a photographer who did everything to make his photos not only beautiful but also useful.”

I wondered if this answer was interesting. I had answered frankly, without much thought. I simply stated what I felt in my heart, without considering its impact. After two days of contemplating my answer, I realized that answer was my photographic testament.

As always, I grabbed my notepad and began writing. I realized that writing out my thoughts, my purpose, and the impact of my work, were essential parts of my life as a photographer.

Without meaning to, this magazine had highlighted an essential element to refine my photographic approach. Ultimately, I was grateful for the opportunity to strengthen and redefine my purpose a little more.

I wanted to share my thoughts with you. That is the purpose of the rest of this article. But first, I thought it was important to make some essential reminders.

Your Photographic Why is Fundamental

If you have chosen to create interesting photographs, you have certainly thought about your photographic why. This is the first building block of your photographic approach. It gives you the reason why you practice photography.

The photographic why has exactly the same function as the existential why that gives you the reasons why you live. Your existential why gets you up every day. It defines your role as a human being.

Your photographic why defines why you go out into the field to shoot. It is the guiding light of your photographic approach.

This concept prevents you from getting lost in your projects. I advise you to write it down in only two or three sentences. Learn it by heart so you never forget it.

It can evolve over time. Its nature will not change over time, but you will refine it and make it more precise according to your maturity.

The photographic why is an intellectual and theoretical concept that does not materialize in a visual way in your photographs. However, it is a practical element since it allows you to properly frame your photographic direction.

Once you have defined your photographic why, you have created the markers for your photographic approach.

Let us move on to the second important element of your photographic approach.

The Elements of Your Photographic Artistry

The second element of your photographic approach is the photographic artistry. For me, it is the best way to identify you as a photographer and to make yourself known to others. It is a practical and visual concept.

I advise you to define your photographic artistry, which consists of two elements:

  • Your photographic vision.This is the way you see the world around you. It is unique. It describes your perception of what you are photographing.
  • Your photographic style.This is the way you show the world around you. Personally, I am a fan of defining multiple photographic styles. I have found that photographers who only rely on one style are boring. Even if they are perfectly identifiable, they end up creating the same thing over and over again.

If you have not yet defined your photographic artistry, I recommend that you do so. Do not wait. It will be a precious help as soon as you venture onto the field to take pictures.

It will allow you to choose your scenes, your framing, your compositions.

The development of your photos will also be directed to your approach.

I now give you the new element I added to my toolbox for my photographic approach. It is the logical continuation of the two previous elements.

Defining Your Photographic Testament

This new element of the tools of the photographic approach is called the photographic testament.

Before explaining its function and how to define it, it seems interesting to me to define the word testament.

“A testament is an ultimate message that a writer, a politician, a scholar, an artist, or an author of a work wishes to transmit to posterity.”

During the interview I mentioned in the first paragraph, the last question I was asked imposed itself on me as the definition of my own photographic testament. Finally, the question I had to answer could be translated as “What do I want to leave behind through my photographs?”

I realized that by answering this question, I could strengthen my photographic why and my photographic artistry. If I can imagine the photographs that I want to leave to those who appreciate and are interested in my work, I just have to create them. I had never thought of this photographic tool. It is so simple and so powerful. But as always, doing simple things is difficult and complex.

Why do not you do the same? Simply take a sheet of paper or create a document on your computer and write your photographic testament in a few lines. With words you will define the photos you would like to leave as a testimony of your photographic activity.

I guarantee that all of a sudden, everything will fall into place. Just imagine that you want to leave 50 photos that you created specifically for posterity, to encapsulate your life’s work.

If you think about it, it is not much. When you consider that you can make them in less than an hour with your camera or cell phone. Yet, it will take you weeks, months or maybe years to create those photos that you will bequeath to posterity.

You must imagine your photographic will as a photo album. You are telling a story: the story of your photographic life. You must put yourself in the shoes of those who will look at the photos in your album. They will turn the paper pages one by one thinking about you, your passion, and the way you photograph.

You must think of the spectators moved by your photos, escaping to other universes or to distant horizons only by looking at your photos.

Your photographic will is not your portfolio. The purpose of a portfolio is to present photographic work within a specific framework. You have to demonstrate your knowledge in a given photographic activity. What I propose is much more than that. Your photographic will is much broader than your portfolio. It is the story of your passion for photography.

Creating a testament is a great exercise in style to help you create photos that are meaningful and personal to you.

Personally, I find it an extraordinarily strong and ambitious personal act. Moreover, you have no time limit. You can delete and add photos over the years. The idea that you must keep in mind is that this will always resemble you. It is a trace of your photographic existence.

Are You Ready to Create Interesting Photos?

I hope this article will allow you to approach photography from a new angle. I wanted to show you that defining your photographic testament will strengthen and refine your “photographic why” and your photographic approach.

As far as I am concerned, it is a new tool that appeared to me by the greatest of chances. Nobody had told me about it, but for which I am most grateful. I feel at peace, comforted by my photographic and artistic choices. I hope that you too can experience this peace and sense of gratitude. I will now share with you some personal photos that I will add to my photographic will, my photographic testament.

I propose you some personal photos that I will add to my photographic will.

A tree in black and white on the heights of Black Canyon in Colorado in USA. Amar Guillen, photographer
Canyon de Chelly in black and white in Arizona in USA. Amar Guillen, photographer
Tree in black and white in Caddo Lake in Texas in USA. Amar Guillen, photographer
Tree in Black and White on the heights of Island in the Sky in Utah in USA. Amar Guillen, photographer
Tree in black and white on the heights of the lake Magadi in Kenya. Amar Guillen, photographer.
Watefall of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. Amar Guillen, photographer.
Red deer stag in the mist in black and white in France. Amar Guillen, photographer.
Bison in ine the snow in black and white in Yellowstone. Amar Guillen, photographer.
Gelada in black and white in Ethiopia. Amar Guillen, photographer.
Lioness in black and white in Kenya. Amar Guillen, photographer.

Be humble, patient, constant, persevering, and persistent because the road to excellence is long.

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