Why do we take photographs?
Do you have a specific purpose for taking photographs? I mean, what is the main reason why you bring a camera to your eye (or at harm length if you use the LCD) to make a photograph? Most people use their smartphones to take what is called a “selfie” (This is actually an official word in the english vocabulary. On November 19th, 2013 Oxford Dictionaries announces “selfie” as their international Word of the Year 2013. Nothing less), an image of them showing where they are, with whom they are or what they’re doing. The idea behind this is to make it available to anyone on social medias so the rest of the world can see what’s going on in their life. I never had a need for the instantaneous, always preferred to share something that’s completed, prepared and polished. Both approaches are ok, but that’s not the point here. We’re talking about what everybody wants to do with a photograph. I’d have no problem showing a selfie of me working on a shot, but the shot itself has to be presented in a more organised way. Snapshot and Fine Art belong to two different worlds and I prefer it stays like that, please.. :-)
Do you remember when.. ?
Many people will simply take photographs because they want to remember what they’re doing, what is happening. It might be as vacations souvenirs, a family gathering where everybody is exceptionally present, an event (birthday, anniversary, wedding, party, etc.) or just for fun during a dinner, at the beach or with kids. That’s probably the most popular form of photography nowadays. As humans, we all want (need?) to remember, to show what happened. This need grows as we get older and it provides a warm feeling when we see all these things and moments we have been through, enjoyed and/or suffered. It’s a testament that we did something with our life, that we consumed it and had it the way we wanted.. or not. Photographs are the tactile version of memories in our brain. Some people need a lot, others just don’t care. Admittedly, it’s far more easier to take photographs today than it was a couple decades ago. Taking photographs was an option before. Now it’s the first thing that comes to mind, everyday. Hey, don’t tell me you never thought of taking a photo of your plate at a restaurant? We are the best reporters of our own life! I think it’s pretty awesome.. I’d be happy to have some photographs of my grandmother at school or with her friends. That’s almost unthinkable these days.
Our kids and next generations won’t have problems knowing how it was for their parents or relatives, what they were doing and how they were doing it. Can you imagine if we had photographs of Egyptians going on with their daily life? That would be a tremendous help for historians and archeologists to explain a lot of things.
Well, I think you get the point here. There are lots of reasons or purposes for taking photographs. The topic for this post is not to describe all of them, there are too many anyways. What I wanted to achieve is simply make you think about photography in your own life and how important it is for you. Some will do it spontaneously, just like that, while others will proceed in a more organised way or with a specific purpose.
Personally, I’m making photographs because having a camera in my hands feels like the most natural thing in life after breathing. :-) My ultimate goal has always been to turn something ordinary into something beautiful and interesting. My hit ratio is slowly growing but there’s a lot of work to be achieved before it gets to a level that will get me satisfied. For one thing the aspect of luck cannot be neglected, and to be there at the right time is crucial. If you never go out or never have a camera with you, you’ll have a hard time catching something special and attracting for your viewers. Remember that the best camera in the world is the one you have with you!
I also have a solid photo collection of my family and friends, but very few “selfie”.
What if you lose all your photographs?
One last thing about all these precious souvenirs. I’m pretty sure you have heard that so many times, but if this one more time can make a difference then it’s worth it: backup your photographs. And do it regularly. Empty your memory cards after each event, don’t wait months or until the card is full. Keep at least two copies of every file and it’s even better if you keep them stored at two different locations. It would be so sad to turn all this energy taking photographs over the years into a complete loss in a few seconds. Could be a human error (delete), theft, fire, flood, etc. There are way too many reasons for doing regular backups. That will be the topic of a future post here, I promise.
Until then, grab your camera and continue building your memories bank, for you and for future generations. The photograph above was taken a long time ago in Algeria (most probably in Alger). My father in law had an original print (5x7 inch.) and he told me his father was one of the men gathered at the café-hotel on the right. It depicts a scene of the daily life before the conflicts. I scanned the original, enlarged it to A4 format, removed the scratches, specks and dust, and then printed it on Ilford Smooth Gloss paper. I plan to offer the print to him as a gift next week.
For me, this image has a lot of value because I can see how it was back then. It’s interesting from an historical point of view, but it also represents something of a big value for the family, present and future generations. I couldn’t find a better example for today’s topic.
© Normand Primeau