Photography is a lie. There is no truth to it, only the selective drama of its author. If he wants sun, there will be sun. If he wants pain, so be it. Photography then is nothing more than the extension of the author’s political or social bent, and anyone who argues the honesty of a camera click is diluted and ignorant to the craft.

Nowhere is this more true than through the lens of a photographer as he travels. Upon finding himself in new lands, it is to his discretion in capturing that particular city or country in the image that he prefers. Dollars to donuts says that two photographers with two very different ideological drives will produce two very different visual results in their images.

Every year I have the pleasure of traveling to Bogota, Colombia (accent withheld due to keyboard restrictions,) and every year I find myself with renewed excitement in my professional photographic ambitions. My first couple of years focused mostly on the alien. Colors and textures were new, architecture was bizarre, and every direction provided my lens something unusual to capture. It was thrilling. Storefronts seemed unreal, foods looked outrageous, and city streets might as well exist on Mars.


After another one or two years, my eyes softened to my surroundings and my receptors became a bit more relaxed to this fascinating country. I began to focus less on the delightfully mundane and turned my attention to the truly spectacular. I honed in on fabric details woven into blankets, wood carvings sold by street vendors, ornate architectural feats from the Colonial to the Modern, and even graffiti art to rival many MoMA installations in Manhattan.

Before long, my interest in the visually spectacular also calmed, and I began to seek the dark and dirty. Bogota is an amazing city, long matured from its violent past and now with a keen eye towards an economic boom, but the devil can still be found in its midnight streets. My photographic excitement turned more towards this aspect of the city, and off I went capturing images of the homeless, the shadowy silhouettes of the Bogota underbelly lurking down dimly lit streets, rain soaked staircases, and maddeningly painful alleyways. Pornography for the artistic snobbery of New York.


And now with several years under my belt and thousands of shutter clicks later, I am pondering what Bogota really is about? Is this city a kaleidoscopic daydream of food, music, and culture? Is it a creative Bohemia of government sanctioned street art? Or is it a purgatorial sunless graveyard? As a tourist and unofficial diplomat, the truth lies in all three. But as a photographer, the truth is nowhere to be found.

Bogota is whatever I want you to believe it to be. This is what photography is about. A great photographer will not merely capture what he sees, because what he sees is not to be trusted. Those eyes of his are prone to sharpen and dull with his own mindset. And so a truly great photographer will tell a story to the viewer and capture things, not as he thinks he is seeing them, but as he wants them to be seen in that moment. Drama be damned.