……in time – when you can’t help but get a emotional.
As I was gazing through the viewfinder on this occasion, just after the speeches had finished…
…my vision all of a sudden became fixated – and the room had a sense of time standing still, as if you can’t see or hear or anything else in your periphery.
I knew what I was witnessing, was a truly magical moment of love between two sisters.
Natalie (the bride) had just given her sister (maid of honor) a little hand-made family photo album…
As she opened it and they looked through the old photographs – you could see how close they were; laughing, smiling and reminiscing about life’s cherished moments they had shared together.
…tears of joy & happiness began to flow.
………and I couldn’t help but get emotional myself.
……………thinking how I would feel if I received such a gift from either of my sisters.
But I then felt a bout of guilt… perhaps I was being too voyeuristic as the scene filled my eyes, the intrusive nature of my gaze of them sharing a very personal moment together; though I was discreet and they were totally unaware of my presence it felt as if it was almost wrong to capture & record it?
That feeling soon subsided – when I reminded myself that I am actually here to document the day in all it’s momentary wonder & beauty, and smiling to myself (while making cooing noises) as I took a sneak peak at the back of the camera as to what I had just captured.
As I view the photos back now and write this blog post – it got me thinking… the power of the photograph is truly remarkable, especially that of our families, friends & loved ones – how we love to look back on what we’ve shared together through the journey of life. The irony that I captured a photograph of a special moment in time of Natalie with her sister, viewing previous cherished photographs of them together.
What is a photograph??
In the present moment when we choose to take a photograph …why do we choose to press the shutter at that definitive moment in time? …why do we even photograph? …what are we searching for? …perhaps we’re not searching at all, but merely recording …ever since the dawn of photography mankind in the modern world has certainly had a bit of obsession with recording our lives & current times, from the moment we’re born to each and every occasion there after until the day we die – we have numerous photographs of ourselves and of each other, …but what purpose does it serve us? and why?
Perhaps it’s rather strange to hear a photographer question as to …what is a photograph? …the meaning of photography? …and our relationship with photographs?
Many years ago at the UCA – ‘University for the Creative Art’s’ …(formerly known as ‘The Surrey Institute of Art & Design’) I took a BA(hons) degree in photography …this was a degree – in which rather than teaching you the technicality of photography, (this was assumed that you knew all this already) …it was more akin to creating conceptual fine art as well as theorising through discourse the meaning of photographs & photography.
Every photograph we learnt can be dissected into it’s raw components of representation, narrative, allegorical, and the symbolic meaning it has with us.
We place huge value on our personal photographs whether they’re photographs we’ve taken ourselves or had professionally done – I would argue that the ones in which we’ve taken ourselves, the ‘snap shot’ as it’s often referred to, holds a certain level of resonance & innocence with us, as it truly is a moment in time. Unlike for instance a family portrait – one in which – the time & setting is chosen and carefully crafted & constructed. We place so much value on our photographs that in the event of a fire in our homes – you often hear of the only inanimate objects people wish to save is their family photo albums… but what is it we’re saving?
Perhaps what the personal photograph is – is the nudge in the right direction of fond memories, the recollection of our memories as if we need an aid to draw from our mind what went before – the association’s of feeling we felt when we reflect back on that period captured, frozen in time. The photograph is a true dichotomy – a representation of what existed in time visually at that precise moment in that precise field of view, yet on the other hand it’s a reality which ceases to exist. Maybe it reinforces our minds ability to only remember happy & good times, creating the reality of the past through our photographs, perhaps selectively remembering only what we wish to.
The holiday snap is good example – we rarely take photographs of the mundane in our everyday existence yet why do we feel the urge to take photographs on our holidays, is it purely to remember? …if so why do some of us equally feel that we then need to display, share and publicise our photographs, the modern equivalent would probably be posting on facebook to relative strangers? …Is it purely a means to communicate with others and to share? …Or is it a form of status & ego? The Japanese are known for going to great lengths to have themselves in every photograph in front of numerous landmarks – as if it’s proof they require, a validity of their keepsakes – but again whom is it for? …maybe certainly in the western world it’s just part of our every growing need to consume… we view & consume images endlessly every single day without us giving it a second thought, we are bombarded visually with adverts and yet we always wish to consume more & more of them. Every image is uniquely different, yet certain patterns start to emerge throughout all our photographs.
Has anyone ever lamented – I never wish to see a photograph again! ……It would be almost near impossible in the modern world, unless you live in the jungle and didn’t wish to own a passport either!
The ambivalence of the photograph is also problematic, yes – it records what stood before it – it’s very essence and make-up of the camera obscura, yet at the same time can only ever be a visual representation – the fact that images can be belie as to the meaning of the truth of what was, whether through manipulation or only ever telling part of the story… only adds further to conundrum of the meaning of the photograph.
Taken from her essays – ‘On Photography’ – Susan Sontag wrote…
“To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt”
If you’ve got this far – then well done! …I’ve probably been a bit self indulgent today, harking back to my old days at uni… but it never hurts to question anything in life, even if there is no definitive answer.
So despite all the theorising and questions raised… I will conclude with the reason why I love personally being a photographer, (and perhaps why we all love taking photographs) …is to evoke emotional responses to my images – and at the end of the day if it makes us and others smile for many years to come & beyond, then it can only ever be a thing of enjoyment, beauty, curiosity and wonderment. If it is simply that – then hey, we should all embrace it and take even more photographs!
Let me know what you think?