forestry processing in vietnamBack home in Alaska I have been spending hours, no days, editing photos from my recent 2.5 week assignment to Vietnam. While editing this morning a couple photos got me thinking about what I do as a professional photographer. What am I looking for in these thousands of images?

My task was to “photographically document priority areas.” With such a vague assignment I had the opportunity to constantly decide what specifically to photograph and how, in order to best document the issues. This basically meant looking for photographs that would help a World Wildlife Fund publication or staff person explain the forestry industry in Vietnam.

As a photographer my desire is to use the photographs to not just tell a story, but to present the visual elements in such a way that the photo is attractive. I want the photos to be engaging in some way that will hold the viewers attention and create interest in the subject.

I believe this familiar effort to document something with photos that draw and hold attention is my greatest value as a professional photographer. When touring a furniture plant with limited time and harsh mid-day light I use all the experience and talent I can muster to make photos that show the subject in an interesting and engaging way.

The photo above I consider a success because it grabs my attention and asks me stop and think about the story it tells.  I won’t struggle to describe why it attracts me or why I think it’s ‘artistic’ that is better left to writers. For my part I’ll continue striving to make images that contain these mysterious qualities and perhaps you can explain them to me.