[Column] Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten: What is your story?

[Column] Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten: What is your story?

As a kid, I was interested in photography. I saved for a camera, read up on how the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO worked together. I built a dark room under the staircase and took lots and lots of photos. I took a course to learn even more. I spoke to photographers, both professional and amateurs, and I tried to learn from the work of famous photographers I liked.

There was Man Ray, Philippe Halsman, Annie Leibovitz, and especially Cindy Sherman.

My own photography was not interesting yet. I took random photos of landscapes or how light falls across the walls. I just wanted to make a good-looking photo and focused all my energy on doing it "right."

One day, my photography teacher looked at my photos and asked me a simple question: "What story are you trying to tell?"

It was a simple question, but it took me a while to understand it. I began to realize great photography is not about what the photo looks like, but what it feels like. A good photo tells you a story, and a good story will make you feel something. A photo might be beautiful because it makes you feel awful. Beauty in itself is not that interesting until you put it in perspective, and an emotion is triggered.

I've been traveling with the family, and we're visiting beautiful places, so we're always surrounded by people taking photos. We do it ourselves, too. We'll see a large tower and will want to preserve that memory. A photo seems like a good idea at the time, but we all know what will happen when you look at it later; it will just be a large tower, and most likely won't trigger an emotion.

A tip for better vacation photos would be to think about the emotion you want to preserve. Put your kids in front of that tower, facing it, with their backs towards you. Don't ask them to smile, unless the emotion you want to convey is awkwardness. Sit on the floor and take a photo of your children pointing up at the large tower. Now you've created a story with a perspective, and the emotion you've captured is their sense of awe at the big tower.

By the way, this story is my way of telling you I've been out of the office and on holiday. The emotion I'm trying to convey is one of content. But the question my photography teacher once asked me can be applied to a lot more things. If you have a company, what story are you trying to tell? Your romance, what's the story? Your travels, what's the story?

Your life, what's the story?

Send me your story — I'd love to hear it.


Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten is een serial internet entrepreneur en is oprichter en eigenaar van The Next Web, een techmediabedrijf dat zich focust op Generation T; de generatie met een groeiende interesse in technologie. Voor The Next Web schrijft Boris wekelijks een blog die tevens wordt gepubliceerd op Marketing Report.




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