There are so many different kinds of photographs across every genre imaginable. In each, there is always some intent behind them, usually, the photographer passing some sort of meaning, message, or emotion across. These are the kinds of images that enrich our worlds, broaden our minds, and make us feel.
And there’s another type of photograph out there that diverges from these kinds of intentions. It’s something I’ve seen a few times over the course of my photographic career. With some images, there’s a certain braggadocio surrounding them. I think I’ve perhaps mentioned this before, that these are the trophy photographs. It’s not that they’re trophies because the photographer who created them prized them for their meaning or message. More, the central message within these types of photographs is the perceived value. Basically, in these images, the photographer took them with one intention in mind: To show off some sort of amazing thing that he or she got to take part in. It’s not about conveying something profound but more about showing off advantages or opportunities the photographer was fortunate to experience.
Sometimes, these photographs cover some sort of famous or obscure locale—sort of a, “look at me, I got to go to this amazing place!” But that’s not always the case. Often, these photographs are centered around other brag-worthy things. Maybe the grueling hike that the photographer had to take to get to his destination, or maybe, when the photographer speaks of the image, the words aren’t about what it means but about the outrageous lighting setup he or she had to use in order to light the image.
In essence, this kind of photography is a type of adventure photography. The message becomes twisted as the photographer says through it, “look at this thing I can do that you cannot.”
The funny thing about these trophy images? We’re all guilty of making them at one point or another. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of a trip, or new equipment, or a difficult journey. It’s human nature for us to be competitive and show off the great things we can do. The intent behind the photograph skews, and it becomes less about making art and more about documenting something for bragging rights. And that’s the kind of photography that can rub people the wrong way. That’s why we need to always be mindful of this sort of thing. With every image that we design, we should be conscious of the intent behind it. Are we creating a photograph to show off, or are we creating a well-intentioned photograph? With mindfulness, you can prevent yourself from falling into the trap of creating photographs that tell the tale of how you took those photographs. Be conscious to tell a tale that resonates with people, whether it’s a cause you believe in, a metaphor you’d like to express, or an emotion that you want viewers to feel. It’s hard to go wrong when you focus on creating well-intentioned photographs.