My Top Photos - Part 2

In Banff, on the top of mountains, self-portraits are taken to another level.

In Banff, on the top of mountains, self-portraits are taken to another level.

I remember the first camera I ever had. 

When I was very young, around 8 or 9, my grandparents took me over to Denmark to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins who call the lovely country home. 

Along with my strong supply of baggy sweatpants and matching sweaters (which were VERY MUCH my style that age), I brought along a small rectangular film camera. The thing looked more like an old ice cream sandwich than a piece of electronics, and you looked really silly holding this thing up to your face to snap a photo. The flat black rectangle made you look like cyclops from X-Men when you held it up to your face. 

Anyway, I made some of my first images while on that trip, not that any of them were very good. Flipping through the album there’s blurry shots of my aunt and uncle’s backyard, giant lego structures at Lego Land, dark images taken inside a viking’s grave on the Danish hillside, and many more. 

I don’t think I really knew the power of photography at that time. I was just a kid in a foreign country, so everything I glimpsed was exciting. The streets, the signs, the trees, the people, everything was different!

Nevertheless, I cherish those images like slips of gold. Just opening the book can invoke a feeling of warm nostalgia that heats my stomach like a sip of good, smooth whiskey. 

Today, my photography has become entangled with my journalism career. This is a double-edged sword. It’s excellent because it constantly has me honing my skills. News photography may not be the thing I’m most passionate about. As you know, I’m more of a feature writing guy, the slow burn type who likes to sit back and try and see the bigger picture behind the story. 

There is something exciting about rushing out to a crime scene or a fire or some announcement, challenged with the task of trying to get the best image, and sometimes that’s fun. It can get old fast though, for me at least. 

Regardless, because photography is part of my job, I’m constantly doing it, learning and improving. 

Here comes the bad part through. 

If I’m out taking pictures most of the day, or had to struggle over a feature shot for a nuanced story, going out to shoot in my spare time is the last thing I want to do. 

There’s a give and take to everything, I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. 

The good news, for me at least, is that I don’t spend too much time worrying about the images I make for myself. I rarely share them, dropping some of the best ones on this blog, and others over on my Instagram feed, but I approach the photos like one of my favourite writers approached his writing. 

“With Kitchen Confidential, I just didn’t give a shit at all what people might think. I didn’t think anyone was going to read it, so what did it matter. I just told the truth on every page.”

Anthony Bourdain (RIP), said this about the book that more or less launched his career as a celebrity in the restaurant business. 

I try to approach my own pictures the same way. If nobody is going to see them, why worry so much about the end product? 

It seems kind of silly to say this now, because I’m about to share a bunch of them with you. 

The main point to take away is that attitude, that feeling that you’re doing it because YOU want to do it, not for anybody else. 

That attitude allows the walls to come down and the passion to come forward. 






Joel Wittnebel