Photographic Identity

Extracting a lot of the content from my about-photography page since, while it’s still valid, now that I’ve fixed up my portfolio, my next step is to revamp that page as well.

I’m always a bit sheepish when people call me a photographer, I have to admit that the description does fit. I almost always have a camera on me—often with an additional lens if not an entire second camera. My sheepishness comes from the fact that I don’t really have a photographic identity, just a barely-edited, all-over-the-map flickr photostream.

Meanwhile, having photographed almost continuously since 2008 (previously, I really only took photos when I went on vacation), I’ve come to realize that I’m actually juggling at least four different photographic identities…and that I’m the most happy with photography when all four are properly balanced.

Spoon! DSC_0060 christmas morning
Identity #1: Friend/Family “Snapshots”

This amounts to the largest volume of photos in my stream. I enjoy taking photos of friends and family.  I hate doing the posed thing and prefer to capture candids. And I love being able to share my results with my subjects.

237barcelona-batllo.jpg big bill reading the 2nd inaugural
Identity #2: Documentary

Also amounting to a large percentage of my photos, I like to record what I’ve seen and where I’ve been. Much of the purpose of this is to help me describe them to people later. But with a lot of flower, bird, or wildlife shots, the purpose is often to allow me to identify the subject later.

chris house mercury
Identity #3: Antique/Vintage Gear Enthusiast

I love old cameras and I believe they should be used rather than displayed. I already shoot a Nikomat FTn which is older than I am. When I discovered my grandparents’ Brownie Hawkeye Flash, I pretty much went off the deep end and have since picked up over a handful of Kodak cameras from the 1930s through 1960s. My only rules are that they have to take (or be convertible to) 135 or 120 film and that they should cost under $10.

misty lot waiting packer-3
Identity #4: “Artist”

I should point out here that these four categories are not mutually exclusive. I shoot family and documentary shots with whatever gear I have available. And I try to makes those photos as nice as I can. At the same time, there’s a very different mindset involved when I’m shooting with the express purpose of seeing rather than just recording (or screwing around). In addition, a large percentage of my film usage  (especially when using 120) is with some sort of higher purpose in mind.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at, and the web at

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