Last week I went to the Constitution Center to see their collection of Pulitzer Prize winning photos. The photos are a heartbreaking, thrilling, astounding collection of visions.
It struck me, from my experience as a photographer, and from viewing this show, that the ingredient, the unspoken but vital ingredient in great photography is bravery.
Sure, technical skill is vital, and composition important, and having an artistic eye is necessary, but we have all been told about those things. Those elements are taught and respected. You can be a good photographer with all of those skills. But to be a great photographer takes bravery, the kind that comes from your gut through your trembling heart, the mind over your shaking hands.
It is what causes you to run towards the fire, rather than away. Many photographers use their cameras as a shield, to remove themselves from the action, to hide from actually being a part of the scene. With the camera, you have a reason to be there, with a camera, you can pretend you are separate. But great photography calls us to the fire, to walk towards the action, to join the scene.
Photography calls us to be brave.
The greatest photos I have ever taken happened when I was brave. The photos I missed were all because of my cowardice. I can work on my technical skills, my artistry, but above all, I want to work on my bravery.