To be honest, all my life I’ve felt like an outsider in most things, and photography is no different. I feel like an outsider among photographers – for some reason, I just don’t fit in when photographers get together and talk photography. I feel like an outsider with tools and process – I don’t have formal training, professional experience, or even a lengthy amateur background in this field. I even feel like an outsider with my subject matter – particularly when it comes to landscapes, since I’m not and never have been much of an outdoorsman.
If there’s one advantage to being an outsider, though, it’s perspective. Being an outsider inherently places you a certain distance removed from the thing from which you are outside. This allows you to consider that thing from a place of detached observation, which in turn allows you to interpret it free from the influences and biases that come from being more wholly immersed inside of it. Stated more succinctly, you gain a perspective that most others don’t have. This can be a valuable tool in creating work having a unique appeal. In at least some aspects, it seems to me a good fit for photography.
I write these thoughts having read the writings of other photographers who assert that value in artistic work comes from familiarity and intimacy with the subject. With landscapes, it seems to be the idea of spending weeks, months, or years living in close relationship with the landscape sought to be photographed. Maybe so. But there’s value in having an outsider perspective as well. There are, in fact, many paths to achieving artistic value, and they will not be the same for everyone.