What does "Organic Exposure" mean?

The most meaningful moments happen naturally, untouched and unchanged by the photographer who illuminates them.

The most meaningful moments happen naturally, untouched and unchanged by the photographer who illuminates them.

Sometimes, I take for granted that the name “Organic Exposure” makes sense. But from time to time, people ask me “what does Organic Exposure” mean? I’m delighted when people ask the question, because it gives me a chance to describe one of the things I’m most passionate about – finding inherent meaning in real moments.

In short, the word “organic” refers to my belief that the photos (and everything else) I produce should be reminders of real moments, feelings, and meanings. My job as a photographer, I feel, is to discover and illuminate meaning, rather than manufacture it. “Organic,” then, reflects the belief that the purest and most fulfilling meaning emerges naturally from the world. Life is oozing with meaning, purpose, emotion, and joy. It pulses through life like blood through a body, like sap through a tree. My passion is searching for it, harvesting it, and honoring it.

“Exposure,” then (set aside the obvious photography reference), alludes to the searching/harvesting element of the job. If you speak to enough photographers, you’ll start to notice a sort of dichotomy in how they refer to the act of photographing. Some will say that they “make” photographs; others will say that they “take” photographs. I unashamedly “take” photos. To “expose” is to illuminate rather than produce, it is to enlighten rather than fabricate. Technically speaking, to produce a photograph, a photographer opens their camera and exposes their sensor (or film) to light that already exists in the world. The photograph is not an original creation, but rather a reflection of reality. I try to allow the same process to occur in my intellectual and philosophical approach to the job of photographer. My experiences, both physical and emotional, are sensors upon which the meaning(s) inherent in life can be impressed. At my best, whether as a photographer or simply a living being in the world, I allow my senses to exist unperturbed by the a need to reconstruct or refashion. So it is with my photography work. I find the most meaning when things happen naturally, unperturbed by my presence.

Or, as Lao-Tzu says:

““Therefore the master

acts without doing anything

and teaches without saying anything.

Things arise and she lets them come;

things disappear and she lets them go.

She has but doesn’t possess,

acts but doesn’t expect.”

This is the approach I try to bring to all the work I do. At a wedding, I try to allow meaning to arise naturally (organically). At a portrait sitting, I try to discover the essence of what it means to be you. At every turn, the meaning that I try to manufacture is never even close to as fulfilling as the meaning that is manufactured by simply living in the world. The best photos I take, then, are ultimately organic exposures of life’s inherent meaning.