I have been trying to pin down a “70% Water” mission statement for a while, but as anyone who has ever tried to do such thing very well knows, it is hard. It seems simple at first; in fact, all you have to do is say what you want your mission to be. How hard can it be? You know why you started doing what you’re doing. But when you try to put it into words, it becomes a game of compromise between a narrowly defined goal, which you may quickly outgrow while it already makes you feel boxed in, and a sweeping, ambitious quasi-evil plan of world domination.
In my case, is it really just underwater photography? I have to be honest, I don’t spend enough time underwater to realistically hope to make a meaningful contribution to the “underwater photography scene”, at least not in the next five years. I am too impatient for that. Photography is something I want to do because I enjoy doing it. But photography is a vast field with countless specializations and many, many different and ever-growing new niches. Why limit myself to underwater nature close-up digital stock photography? Would it be too ambitious to add wide-angle? Or above-water? Or non-nature? Why not go all the way to artsy abstract black and white surrealistic views of abandoned neighborhoods?
So, that’s the question, where to draw the line. In writing a mission statement, it helps if you’re capable of wide stroke generalizations and blurry concept, also known as marketing- or lawyer-speak, as opposed to literal, exact definitions, which is typical of geeky computer programmers, like me.
This is the best I can do, so far: “The purpose of Seventy Percent Water is to portray in images the connections among water, life and humanity“. This includes a lot of possible subject matter, and that’s probably good for now, because I am an amateur who needs practice. Maybe after I spend enough time doing this, I will be able to narrow it down more. For now, this mission statement already excludes many, many possibilities: no pictures of schoolchildren, rocks, bicycles, homeless people, live chickens, local ball games, Russian criminal tattoos, or pizza slices, unless they have something to do with water. I think the main point is that water has to be part of each picture, or at least be implied, as in the image of a water taxi docking at Brooklyn Heights.
A beneficial side-effect of this tremendous brain-squeezing effort is that with a mission statement you generally get a tag line for free. In fact, after producing the one-liner above, it was a easy to extract the tag line which now embellishes the top of this blog page, “Images of water, life and humanity”. Another benefit of the vague-sounding statement is that water does not need to be in the image, it just has to be implied. So for example, the picture of a fairly well-known bridge can work, because most people know that it spans above a body of water.
Overall, I am pretty satisfied with this mission statement, at least for now. I gives me a theme to work on, and enough room to keep exploring subjects while I find interesting avenues to pursue – while I am stuck in dry-land between dive trips. I am sure that the experience I gain while practicing on land will translate into better underwater images. Sure, I don’t have an underwater tripod, and there isn’t much artificial ambient light in the places I go diving that I’ll be able to produce this kind of photographs, but in terms of learning to juggle in my mind all the variables involved in making good photography, I think I can use all the practice I can get.