A few weeks ago now, I was on a shoot out of town and decided I was going to make a stop on my way home at these old church ruins that are a historic landmark here in South Carolina. It's something I have always wanted to see for many reason. The Old Sheldon Church ruins still stand today after getting torched/gutted twice over the course of history. What remains is a historic landmark - a time marker for us to only imagine what things were like then.
I mentioned to a friend that I was going to stop here and his prompt response was "good luck...that's the most over photographed place in the area. And I have never really seen a photo that does it justice." No pressure. Just a reminder that there would be no way I could do the place justice photographically. It's not my job or anything....
As I approached the grounds with minor photographic trepidation , I sized up this spot to see if I could, in fact, do it any justice. History buffs reading placards, families photographing their holiday cards, couples on engagement shoots, and art school girls working on a project were all scattered around the historic grounds trying to get in their shot, making it difficult for all of us to get in anything decent without existing in their photograph forever. I shuffled behind columns and into corners to avoid being a photobomber in someone's Christmas card this year. I certainly didn't want to be commemorated in an engagement shoot of someone I didn't know.
When I finally stopped worrying about how I was going to actually get the shot, I stepped into the space and really started letting myself think about the place. I immersed myself in the experience (which, by the way, is what any good photographer tries to do). I wondered what it was like in the 1700s sitting in a service there in the middle of August, sweat dripping from the minister's chin as he preached about hellfire and damnation. I thought about families draped in their holiday best coming to remember their Lord and Savior for Christmas service on a chilly winter day. I thought about the pews and the people and how they must have even gotten there. What was the Lowcountry like back then? Especially so far out of the way of everything? How did they dress? Was it hot inside? Did the windows open? Was there somewhere for a fire on chilly days?
When I found myself immersing myself in this story is when I realized something: it really didn't matter what my picture looked like. I was here, thinking...wondering...filling in gaps. I wasn't taking this photo for anyone but me. I wasn't going to sell it or get it published or have it lauded in any way. What it was, for me, as most photographs really are, was a record of a moment I was spending there. It was a memory...and just like this landmark served as a historic spot for people to commemorate something, so would this photo.
Photos are just that. They are visual landmarks of time. Go through the Facebook albums of any close friend and that's what they are. Are they always great? Probably not to you. But maybe to the person who took them. They are special memories created for you, by you to remember life. That's all a photograph is in it's raw essence.
Each one of us were there to capture our own memories - or those of someone who wanted the moment captured for them (the reason you hire a photographer is you need something done that you can't do on your own.). Each one of us were clicking away on our phones and mirrorless cameras and DSLRs for our own purposes – just like every photo we take. They are ultimately for the person who takes them.
So stop worrying if your photo is okay. It's okay. It's just what it was meant to be: Your memory. Your milestone. Your landmark.