I have a portfolio on Shutterstock, a platform for buying and selling stock photos. I recently got an email informing me that they were having something of a competition. You could explain (in 500 words or less), why you use Shutterstock, and if your ‘story’ were chosen, they would promote the crap out of your portfolio on their website and social media outlets. So I figured, hey, why not? What follows is my submission to them. I hope you enjoy it. Actually, while that’s true, what I really hope is that the people at Shutterstock enjoy it.
I’m not a professional photographer. If you were to ask me what I do for a job, I’d probably say, ‘I teach kids about nature.’ Yup, simple as that. I peel them away from their IpadIpodIphone Iscreens, bring them out to forests, streams, beaches, and tell them to look around. We flip stuff over to find out what’s underneath. We climb trees. We watch birds. We slow down and peer closely, peruse carefully, ponder thoughtfully.
I say, ‘This is a lichen.’
They think, ‘Who gives a shit?’
Then I tell them that lichens are living organisms comprised of both algae and fungus, and that neither can live without the other. I tell them that some lichens may be hundreds or even thousands of years old. That some living lichens were here 4000 years before the Egyptians got around to building the pyramids, and 6000 years before the rise of Greek city states. And maybe they begin to look at lichens with a sliver of interest, even respect.
I am, I think, good at my job. Why? Well, I’m fairly knowledgeable, yes. I have a knack for finding interesting flora and fauna, it’s true. I don’t treat little kids like they’re stupid, or can’t figure things out on their own. I don’t treat them, in fact, like little kids. But that’s not why. What makes me good at what I do is that I, like Peter Pan, have never grown up.
No, no, it’s not that I’m childish – I don’t burst into tears when I drop my cookie on the floor or throw a tantrum when someone else has eaten the last of the ice cream. (Although that does kind of piss me off.) It’s just that I’ve never lost my sense of wonder when observing the natural world. The iridescent sheen of a damselfly’s wing, the backlit recurve of a burgeoning fern’s fiddlehead, the little dimples that water striders depress in the surface tension of a stream and the eerie, lonely call of an evening loon skating across the surface of a glassy New England lake all entrance me, no matter how many times I’ve seen or heard them.
Point is, I am genuinely enthusiastic about the natural world and everything in it. (Except ticks. Man, I hate ticks. And leeches. A leech is a tough thing to love.) And that enthusiasm, that sense of wonder, rubs off on others. It’s contagious, but in a good way, like a young child’s laugh. I think, well, I hope anyway, that this passion, this sense of joy and fascination, comes through in my photos.
So why did I join Shutterstock? Aside from making a bit of money, I wanted to share images of the natural world to as wide an audience as possible. I’ve had purchases from Hangzhou, China, Hibat Zion, Israel, Herten, The Netherlands, Lake Zurich, US, Budapest, Hungary, and everywhere in between. That means that some of the delight I take in photographing nature has been transferred to far-flung places across the globe. Someone in Sumqayit, Azerbaijan has been moved enough by a photo of a mountain stream in the Spanish Pyrenees to part with a small sum of money to own it. And that, my friend, is pretty cool.