Saturday, August 4, 2012
Why Do We Do It?
Why is there "Photography?" Why do people take pictures? Especially now, in our times when so many people have small video cameras so readily at hand (as part of their cell phones I mean), why do we still take photographs instead of videos? After all, videos are potentially more valuable - more likely to get you on TV - say if you spot an aircraft falling from the sky, who wouldn't want to be the one of potentially thousands who have the credit "Video Courtesy Of..." on the evening news?
What's more - we know that everybody is watching TV - all video's, both amateur and professional are being consumed by a mass worldwide audience - of that you can be certain. So why is there still this thing called Photography, which, thanks to Digital Cameras, has become more popular than ever? Do people really even bother to look at photographs any more? I mean really? Go into a typical home of anybody who is now under age 40 (Gen-X'ers - wow, time sure is passing isn't it?) - and aside from maybe a couple of professional wedding pictures and baby pictures, are there any photographs hanging on the wall, or in coffee table frames? Chances are, there will not be any photos (or paintings) of any kind, but I can guarantee - one thing you will see is a flat screen TV hanging prominently and proudly on the wall. Naturally one could argue that the TV could be used as a central display for all photographs and other media -- and yes, I will buy that if it were true, but chances are, you'll never see a slide-show running on the 52 inch TV, will you?
I take photographs - and not videos, for a reason, even though my camera is capable of "cinematic" videos, with the right accessories. The photo above is pretty much only a snapshot, taken with my phone camera, while I was waiting for somebody to come through the checkout line. But I just "saw" something here - a composition, combined with a story. So I took the picture, and I'm so glad I did. But why? Why take it at all? I'm glad I took it, because somehow, it just "works". It is a record of what I "saw" - whatever it was that caught my gaze is now available for analysis, criticism and enjoyment. That is the photographic artist in me. Before photography became an art, this is why people made drawings and paintings. Mostly, this picture is now a captured moment in history. It is a point of comparison between now - the 21st Century, and the photographs of men with hats sitting around the cracker barrels of the old General Stores of a Century ago. Was I thinking that when I took the picture? Nope! not at all. It was simply that I had the time, it caught my eye, I unholstered my cell phone and took the picture. It's only now, afterwards, that I'm thinking about how our modern Supermarkets compare with the old General Stores. What do people look like now, compared to then? What signs are hanging? How are goods bought and paid for? What are the lights in the store like? It's all there.
Would this have worked as a Video? In my opinion, no. Videos are viewed differently. Videos have an element of passing time. This scene would be totally boring and forgettable as a video - totally of no value, because it is something we all experience daily, and a video would be just more of the same, and pointless. But as a photograph, it is a frozen moment. It becomes something other than our everyday reality. It becomes something about ourselves that is more real than real. It becomes an all important point in history - a point that can be analysed, compared, or simply enjoyed for what it is.
This is why I do it.