After a discussion with a fellow who told me he has become bored with photography I thought I’d revisit the following from an earlier post.
I once asked “Why do photography” to members of an online forum and received some unremarkable responses like, “because I can” and “because I have a camera”. Well, I suppose it is all about the camera to lots of people. However, there were two responses that I really liked, the first from someone called Soenda who eloquently wrote,
“ Because taking pictures has helped me see better. Before, I was less aware or the way light strikes leaves. I didn’t notice the symmetry of birds on a wire. Sunsets were masses of agreeable colour; now they are gold, pink, lavender and blue”.
The second from someone named Laura who philosophically said,
“Because when I look at my life, I cannot say I have done nothing. The proof exists that I have seen at least a wee bit of the world. I take pictures because it is artistic expression, and I think when we repress our artistic nature, we do ourselves no good, no good at all. I take pictures because it is fun. I can spend the entire day taking pictures, and it could not be a day better spent…”
For me, photography changes. There are times when I just want to play and am interested in nothing more than experimenting, my goal just seeing how something works. I enjoy photographing my friends, family and pets. Pictures that have meaning only to me, but might never go anywhere other than on my computer’s screen saver. And of course, until I retired, photography was the way I earned my living.
There are those times when I try to visually create an image that says something to others about how I see and feel about something. I can’t really say that the medium of photography is a passion for me, but I am enthusiastic. It’s just something I think about a lot and do.
Many use photography as a way to express themselves artistically, of which I heartily agree. Expressing oneself through photography is easy, as it doesn’t require the trapping of other mediums like painting or sculpture, and merely requires a camera.
Photography, for those who first wanted to make photographs, became accessible during the 1800s. The first surviving image made by Jacques Daguerre was of some artistically arranged plaster casts resting on a window ledge in 1837, and a short 20 years later photographers were wandering the North American wilderness and newly constructed cities creating photographs with the same intensity, all though not in the same numbers, as we are today.
Why take pictures? For some it is to document history, we know about the civil war in the 1860s through the photographs of Mathew Brady and the Vietnam War in the 1970s by David Kennerly. Timothy O’Sullivan, William Henry Jackson, Ansel Adams, Elliott Porter, Imogene Cunningham, Bret Weston and others gave us their visual opinions of an early American landscapes.
There were those like Dorothea Lang and Walker Evens that during the great depression of the 1930s told us about the human condition. While Photographers Arnold Newman, Richard Avedon and Canadian Yousuf Karsh, celebrated the beauty of the human expression” paving the way for modern portrait photographers.
For some the question “Why do photography?” may be very philosophical and for others practical. Soenda commented, “ Because taking pictures has helped me see better.” And Laura wrote, “I take pictures because, when I look at my life, I cannot say I have done nothing.”
I wonder what readers would answer.