The similarities of photography and code

As an instructor of UI design at The Iron Yard, I often get asked by prospective students how I got into development and what my background and experiences are. When I say that I have formal training in fine art and visual communications, there are quizzical looks more times than not.

While they may seem like disparate worlds, there are more similarities than not between the two mediums. Regardless of what I happen to be doing for work, I think of myself as a storyteller first and foremost. I wholeheartedly believe that stories hold an immense power that can change the world (science actually backs me up on this one). And for me, photography and coding are just two vehicles to tell stories about the world around me.

A single photograph can take us to foreign worlds, creating indignation over the plight of a child in a barren wasteland or mark a time of victory and hope at the end of a war. They can transcend culture and language, but when these photographs aren’t seen, they begin to lose their power.

When I began working more and more in the web, I recognized the potential that I didn’t have as a photographer. While I could spend months documenting a single story with my camera, it might only ever be seen by a handful of people. But when I built something on the web, a click of a button is all it took to spread to millions (potentially) of people.

I began to see code and design as a way to connect all the different mediums that I was passionate about- photos, videos, text, graphics, audio. All of which, while powerful on their own, could be brought together to form a cohesive story with a sum much greater than its parts. And while I was never going to be the next Dorothea Lange, I could maybe be a conduit for disseminating information.

In this age of connectivity and information, we have an unprecedented ability to create something and make it instantly accessible and available all across the world. And if that isn’t the most electrifying thought, I don’t know what is!

So here I am, having traded in my camera for my computer (for the most part). But my visual background still heavily influences everything that I build. And with every line of code I write and every pixel I design, I think, what story can I tell today?