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“Love, Part II: Don’t Die Not Knowing (Take My Picture)”

Even though cameras are everywhere and people take pictures with their cars at this point, there’s a mighty difference between being a person who lucks out on capturing a good frame from a live stream and one who understands the mechanics of optics and the natural flow of humanity enough to capture a moment. Point being, there are people who take pictures and there are photographers.

This isn’t meant as higher-than-though snobbery, either: I fully believe anyone can become a photographer. But there’s a difference, and that difference is all in the person behind the camera: it’s intention, it’s consideration, it’s an idea. It’s a feeling, a desire, a risk. If there’s no intention to a picture that comes out good, then it’s emotional ephemera. If you risk a feeling of failure, the reward of the frame is tenfold.

& photographers all know this feeling. It’s the reason most keep taking pictures, to feel the camera click as your finger presses down, and for the blink where it all goes black behind the lens, you know you go the shot. That it’ll be confirmed when the film comes back, or when the image is uploaded, but you just know it came out—just enough, at least, to be confident more than you are nervous. (it is not dis-similar to other creative feelings such as: showing a painting for the first time, releasing a song to the public, performing anything in front of a live audience)

And as it is with the camera, so it is with the heart.

In my wanderings since college, I’ve fallen in love three times, and I have a picture of each moment.

Whatever processes make up my internal government, they usually rely on a creative reflex to confirm an emotional instinct. I make things in order to process thoughts and feelings, and this always has had a strange and distinct intersection with my personal relationships. In the best of extremes, it comes down to a moment of clarity, a single frame. A point at which the creative desire to create a document crosses with the personal desire to connect with someone in a way that could not be closer.

And that’s just how it’s gone with me, with portraiture in general. It’s why I only make portraits of people I know, because that’s the only way they’ll be true. While I have an extensive portfolio of pictures and paintings of people, it’s these that I return to, because they represent the best intersections of emotions and motivations that don’t necessarily have established languages, for they remain intensely personal. These aren’t works that necessarily translate to anything greater than personal resonance, but it is within that resonance that creates reason for the rest.

Romantic love is hardly the most important variation of the feeling, yet it’s the one advertising and industry use to contort our society with in its various messages of manipulation and public relations. In many ways these are tough photos for me to look at now (as, obviously, the third time has not actually turned into the charm I had hoped for)—yet I find them important to return to as reminders that art is about translating the unseen, intangible intersections of our lives that are understood but undefined, to help people better understand one another, or perhaps if nothing else, ourselves.


Colin Smith is an interdisciplinary artist & art director living & working in Los Angeles. His assembly-based work focuses on human nature and its relationship to media, language, time, and systems of control.

For more information, social links, as well as various writings on practice & theory, visit the about page.

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