Image from Living On A Dollar A Day: The Lives And Faces Of The World’s Poor © Renée C. Byer

Renée C. Byer: I think

of myself as a journalist who chooses the art of photography to bring awareness to the world. Art is a powerful means of expression, but combined with journalism it has the ability to bring awareness to issues that can elevate the public’s understanding and compassion. It’s the basic reality of why I do what I do.

Peter Dench: I take pictures generally because I’m nosey. The privilege of being a photographer is you can live on the frontline of somebody else’s life.

Maggie Steber: As the late great Leonard Freed said, when asked this question, “to retain my sanity.” It’s true. Photography helps us make sense of the world;, it organizes it for us; it makes us think about it and about the lives of others; it takes us out of ourselves or thrusts us more deeply into ourselves and ultimately, if one is very fortunate, it gives us a life we never expected to have.

Corinna Kern: Documentary photography allows me to engage with the world in a very special way and discover unique facets of life that I would not acquire access to otherwise. You encounter unusual or remote places and meet people from a variety of backgrounds while learning about different cultures and ways of living. Especially working on long-term projects that cover topics in-depth can be one of the most eye-opening and rewarding experiences.

Moreover, I find it very fulfilling to take a beautiful and powerful photograph that has a story to tell. It is my way of creative self-expression, and I hope that my photographic vision engages its viewers likewise. I want people to enjoy my work and at the same time provide new insights into clichéd topics. Especially when documenting subjects that have social stigma attached to them, I aim to convey their humanness and beauty in the hope that this makes people relate to them. I am fascinated by photography as a universal language with a high potential of shifting mindsets and serving as a first catalyst for social change.

Carolyn Drake: To get out of my head, to explore ideas, to exercise creativity, to feel present in the world.

Seth Casteel: My subjects and my messages are what I believe in. They are my religion.

Erika Larsen: I take picutures as a way to communicate and learn. It is one of the deeper ways I am able to connect to people, places and experiences.

Laura Pannack: Why not? But seriously, I love it. Ever since I first started taking pictures, I fell in love with it. It’s a comfort, a craft a challenge and a release.

Diana Markosian: I take pictures because it is my way of communicating with the world. It allows me to learn about myself in the process of learning about others.

Wasma Mansour: Photography is a medium which allows me to explore a subject in a way that makes sense to me. It’s a thoroughly fulfilling and enjoyable process.

Ed Thompson: To tell stories. Some photographers love to play that whole ‘I like to raise questions rather than answers’ bit and be cool. But I’m a passionate person who really gets involved in the stories I share. I try to show solutions/ideas to problems. To try and focus on the causes and the solutions, not the symptoms. Even though for documentary photographers the symptoms are so sexy and visual, sometimes you have to pick topics which are harder to cover as they are not so visually charged and find a way for the audience to engage with the subject.

Jasper White: I love capturing life. It’s really that simple. I enjoy the questions and the conversation every interesting idea captured can evoke.

Erin Trieb: I take pictures because I feel like I have to. Because it would feel unnatural to me if I didn’t. I’ve felt compelled to photograph since I was about 8 years old. Photography has become an extension of who I am. And it’s fun! It’s hard work and it can be difficult to make a living today as a photojournalist, and it’s not always glamorous like a lot of people think. But when you get that buzz from capturing the right moment, you light up inside and there’s nothing else like that feeling. If I stopped enjoying it or it stopped being fun, that’s when I’d have to move on and find something else.

Michael Lavine: I was really never any good at anything else. Besides, it’s fun!

J.M. Giordano: I don’t. The pictures take themselves. I’m not joking. When the photo is ready to be taken, you’ll hit the shutter. I encourage my interns to read Zen and Art of Archery (Cartier-Bresson’s favorite book btw). That’s where the best photographs come from. For me, photography is a calling. Everyone who takes pictures is not a photographer.

Ayesha Malik: I’m seeking something, and either I never quite reach it or I do, and it is so temporary that I keep taking more pictures. I have this need to explore. Photography lets me do that. It is what it is. It fills me yet keeps me wondering. It really is rather abstract. It is almost as though I have no interest in photography…photography itself is not why I take pictures at all. The world and its landscape, its people, their ideas, their cultures, their lifestyles, I could go on… it becomes a need to document.