Look about you. Have you noticed the sheer number of photographs that enhance our lives? Regardless of whether they are physical or virtual, they seem to go unnoticed until they are not present. When a photograph is viewed, it validates the moment.
Photographs enhance our experiences, our lives, like nothing else can.
Videos are great, don’t get me wrong. Yet, it is difficult to become part of a video as they tend to drag the viewer along. Your mind concentrates on what is taking place during the video. A photo lets the viewer be drawn deeply into it, your mind provides the script rather than following someone else’s lead.
I should say that it is so easy to become part of a photograph. For me it is that way. It is that moment, frozen in time, that evokes your memories and your emotions.
I feel that one reason still-photography is so powerful is that a photograph captures a specific moment and captures reality. It is not staged. It is spur-of-that-moment.
How is it that a photograph has so much power in our lives? Photographs capture the moment – they literally capture a slice of unique time. Ansel Adams, my favorite photographer, once said that there are always at least two people in every photograph – the photographer and the viewer.
Moments pass at the speed of light, for all things are a reflection of light and will never be exactly the same again. That unique moment of time will never exist again. Yet we can re-visit that moment by viewing a photograph and by doing so we can relive the feelings or emotions that we associate with the photograph.
It is easy to see how the nickname ‘snapshot’ came about to describe a photograph. Phrases like ‘Capture the moment’ or ‘Grab a shot’ reinforce my belief that a photograph is powerful because it is that unique moment frozen in time. It comes complete with the feelings, sounds and even smells that are conjured from within you.
Some early cultures believed that a photograph had the power to capture the soul, a belief that may still be found today. They certainly capture the essence of the moment. Truly Real Time.
Can not the same be said for a painting? Paintings have power, to be sure, but not to the same extent that a photograph has power over us. The reason for that is that a painting is the artists reproduction of something that has stirred the artists imagination. Paintings are a rendition or a reproduction of the original.
Regardless of whether it is a photograph of a crowd of people in Times Square or a picture of a lone Bristlecone Pine in a remote part of the western United States, there are always at least two people in the photograph. Even when the photographer is the viewer, they are in fact different versions of the same person. Each time I view my own photographs, todays’ version of Pete may discover items that weren’t noticed when the actual photograph was taken or even during a previous viewing.
Get the picture?