Photos and Words By: Josh DeVries
On March 3, 2012 I bought my first camera with nearly all the money I had saved from a cold winter spent washing dishes and frying onion rings. Driving home with 31 cents in my pocket was a strange sensation, considering I had to secure my cash with a rubber band nearly an hour earlier. I had no idea what I was getting myself into; I only knew where I wanted to go.
My interest in photography peaked as I saw Alzheimer’s disease affect the families around me. Yet, no matter how distant a loved one seemed, I started noticing things that brought them to memories and presence in small doses. Thus, I saw the power in a photograph. In this moment, what once was only a piece of paper to me transformed itself. What I now saw was a vault of memory; a photo could mean everything to someone who could remember nothing. This was, and to this day still is, the driving force behind my work. I photographed my first wedding in October of 2012 and the rest, in my head seemingly, is history.
So there’s my story, but if you are at all like me, your eyes have wandered to the photos surrounding this text and you may have noticed that the subject matter doesn’t pertain to the portrait and lifestyle photography I am known for. There are no bright and beaming seniors or brides preparing for their big day; there is me, myself, and I. Conceptual photography at its most basic definition is a photo that illustrates an idea. For me, conceptual photography is one of a few ways I can directly connect to myself.
My creative process and the final image itself are often reflective of whatever I am experiencing in my life at that particular moment. Conceptual photography has always allowed me to express the broad spectrum of my emotions that are not always easily conveyed in words. What may look like a surreal photo to a stranger, to me is a representation of my happiness, my struggles, my victories and/or my losses. It is a process of healing, self-reflection, and presence in the moment. It solidifies what I may have forgotten about my craft; that it is an art form. I absolutely love being a commercial photographer, but at times it can be stressful and that stress can make one forget his or her purpose. Conceptual photography, in colloquial terms, gives me a “taste of my own medicine.” I have the connection to a photo that say a bride may have to the portrait of her moments before she walks the aisle. In one image, a day, month, even a year of memories can be encapsulated. To me, this is why all photography is beautiful. A concept needs not to be complicated or flashy, it just needs to be meaningful to the person who creates it. For me, conceptual photography is one of a few ways I can directly connect to myself, my emotions, and make a positive impact on my own life and the life of others.