What’s so good about Photography?

By Roxanne Tulk

For as long as I can remember I have had a camera. My grandmother gave me a 110-film camera when I was very young and I was hooked immediately. I could never snap enough pics of my family and cats and friends. 

I often went on weekend kids camps with my church and my mum would buy me a 12 exposure roll of film for the occasion. I loved the anticipation as I waited for her to take them to the chemist for processing, the excitement when she finally collected them, the disappointment when half of them were underexposed or blurry or covered by a finger - and finally the satisfaction when I managed to get a good one. 

But why so much emotion over a picture? Why does taking photos still get me excited all these years later? I think it’s a combination of a few things – sometimes familiarity, sometimes the need to document the details and mostly the chase to capture what I like to call the ‘money shot’.

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Familiarity

In high school my dad took me to the only camera shop in town and bought me a second hand SLR. It was a Minolta X700 with a 50mm prime lens. I was smitten, and I knew straight away what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up’. Now, after 20+ years of owning an SLR, it’s comfortable and normal for me to have a camera in hand.

In the beginning that Minolta went with me everywhere and my teenage friends likely regret the extensive visual record I have of our most awkward years! Now, it’s my security blanket when tasked with taking photos at events or functions. Asking to take a stranger’s photo can be nerve racking for an introvert like me but having that camera with me injects the confidence I need to get the job done. 

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Documenting

On a personal leveI, I feel like I am doing my family and children an important service by being the ‘recorder of events’. I used to enjoy flipping through my mum’s photo albums as a child and I can already see the joy it gives my own children to look at old photos of us. I love all the little reminders you get of things long forgotten when you sift through old photos.

Nowadays I snap a lot of my family pics on my phone – a sacrilege to some in my profession but I don’t apologise! If it means I get a shot of that first toothy smile or their hair full of static electricity as they jump on the trampoline, then it serves my purpose. Get that shot by whatever means possible is my philosophy. 

My grandmother recently passed away and we are blessed to have many of her slides and negatives not only from our childhoods but our father’s childhood also. My dad had passed many years before and photos of him are precious to my family. It may not be until years after the moment, but I know my family and friends will eventually appreciate that snap happy lady who is always shoving a camera in their faces.

You’re welcome.

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The Money Shot

But maybe the most enjoyable part, the part that keeps me picking up the camera, searching for new subjects or crawling from the warmth of my bed at ungodly hours, is just capturing a GREAT MOMENT. That moment when the stars align and composition, exposure and subject are all in harmony. 

Nobody did the money shot better than Henri Cartier-Bresson, the famous French street photographer of the mid 20th century. The more common (and much classier!) term ‘the decisive moment’ came from a book of his images published in 1952. I think this quote from him says everything.

“There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera.” 
— Henri Cartier-Bresson

I know that photography is not a thrill for everyone. My partner often tells me to take my face out of the camera and experience life as it happens – which is a good point and maybe I could do more of that. But I have also realised that for me, a huge part of ‘experiencing life’ is looking at it through the lens, moving around for the best angle, working the exposure to match the mood and capturing that one decisive moment. 

Of course, life would go on without photography, but it is for these reasons I feel like I’m living a richer life with a camera by my side.

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About the contributing author:
Roxanne Tulk is photographer and graphic designer who runs her business, 44 Creative, from her home studio in Canberra. When not behind the camera or in front of a computer screen, you might find her potting and re-potting her extensive succulent collection, starting a new crochet project before finishing the last or dissecting the latest episode of Survivor with her family. Check out her work on insta @Sweetchilli_ and @44_creative and web 44creative.com.au