I would've never considered myself an artist until just a few years ago. There seemed something pretentious about the word. An artist, I thought, was an Italian Renaissance painter or a Beat Generation author. An artist was a Beethoven, a Salvador Dali, a Kerouac, a Banksy, a Biles. Artists express themselves with inaccessible poems and metaphors, crescendos and codas, sgraffito and textures, inhuman physical displays of agility and corporeal grace. That is to say, I thought artist were those whose talents surpassed perfection.
As I accumulated a pocketful of degrees, I came to a much simpler and more accurate understanding of who an artists is. An artist is a storyteller. Of course there are nuances and subtleties to this definition, but in its simplest, easily understandable definition, an artist tells stories. My writing, those stories published and unpublished, is all story telling. The photographs I take, whether it is of a bird or a beautiful sunrise, try to tell a story. And when it comes to portrait and/or lifestyle photographs, it is a joint effort between my subject and me to tell their story.
Maybe that is why my photographs are different. I've noticed that popular photographers punch up their colors and clarity so much that you have to ask, is that really photography? Or is it something else? I don't make this observation with any judgment. There is plenty of room for mixed art, a hybrid between photography and multimedia. But, for me anyway, photography is an artistic expression of something that is real. In this way, photography is by definition nonfiction. Once you replace the sky or start adding fictional elements it's not photography.
With that said. Photography is not, or doesn't have to be, news or documentation. When photography is an art, I believe it is not only permissible but incumbent on the photographer to render the image emotionally. That is to say, the photograph should feel such depths of emotion that you can sense that feeling yourself. So there is always a balance between what I would call authentic photography and some sort of hybrid art. This is a struggle with many photographers, and for every photographer there is a different distinction. There is no right answer. As a rule of thumb, I only make changes to my images that could be made if that image was on film.
So I guess there are a few out there who would like to know a few things. Yes, I do have a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology from Duke University. I earned my Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. I've been published in the Chariton Review, The Huffington Post, Dappled Things, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art and Healing, The First Line Literary Journal, The Barely South Review, and others.
I've never really made an effort to publish my photographs but the Huffington Post did buy a few of mine for my story on the hurricane.