Columns » A Photo Life

Why photography is like music

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Haper and Abby playing in the backyard of my grandmother's house. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Haper and Abby playing in the backyard of my grandmother's house.
When the phone rings in my office, I usually have to turn the radio off — yeah, I still listen to the radio. I'm always listening to music.

I enjoy photography in the same way I enjoy music. I like variety and like changing the radio station to suit my mood. I often look at a lot of different genres of professional photography in the same way. I love to view photographs from across the spectrum.

The waiting room of Dr. Stanley Biber, Trinidad's renowned sex-change surgeon. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • The waiting room of Dr. Stanley Biber, Trinidad's renowned sex-change surgeon.

My first love is always documentary photojournalism, but I love illustration, fashion, travel, editorial, and commercial photography as well. You name it.

Portrait of Bertha in the back seat. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Portrait of Bertha in the back seat.
Recently, I caught an interview on the radio with William Eggleston, arguably one of 20th century’s most groundbreaking photographers. His work is known for both its ambiguity and mystical beauty — here’s an example.

Eggleston’s interview was about a release of improvisational musical recordings he’s made. He likens his musical pieces to his photographs, both are performances of improvisation.

Man struggles to get into his car during a snowstorm on I-25. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Man struggles to get into his car during a snowstorm on I-25.

That’s a hint to the the kinds of pictures I really love, those that are filled with improvisation. There’s an energy in pictures that are improvised that can’t be duplicated. They draw you in and never get old. A photographer making great improvisational photographs is like a jazz musician making great music based on their skills at improvisation.

To illustrate this column I’ve included some of my favorite “improvised” photographs.

Portrait of Duke Phillips, owner of Chico Basin Ranch. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Portrait of Duke Phillips, owner of Chico Basin Ranch.
Greenskeeper rolls #18 at sunrise at The Broadmoor's East Course. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Greenskeeper rolls #18 at sunrise at The Broadmoor's East Course.
Ferris wheel and power lines in Colorado Springs. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Ferris wheel and power lines in Colorado Springs.
Two men work on a truck in La Veta, Colorado. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Two men work on a truck in La Veta, Colorado.
Survivors of Pearl Harbor during a service at the Air Force Academy. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Survivors of Pearl Harbor during a service at the Air Force Academy.
Egyptian pyramids at sunrise in Cairo. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Egyptian pyramids at sunrise in Cairo.

Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout.

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