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Thread: Why do we take pictures?

  1. #1
    Jeff Laitila
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    Why do we take pictures?

    Why do we take pictures?

    It’s a simple question. But I think that the answers to this question are as many and varied as there are people on this planet. We each have our own reasons, but I also think that there has to be some common thread, otherwise it would not be such a universal phenomenon.

    I guess the first question that needs to be asked is this: What is it about the still image that captures our attention?

    Could it be that it is the process of stopping time, allowing us to examine a scene in detail, consciously appreciating all the things that are normally only “noticed” on a subconscious level? When watching a video, the scene is in a constant state of change, no two moments are the same, and the limits of our perception only allow us to “see” one small part of each scene at a time. But with a still image, the eye has the luxury of time to explore and see not only the forest, but the individual trees as well. A moment in time has been frozen, preserved forever, but also never to come again.

    I know that for me, I am always amazed at how much detail is captured in a single still image. Details that I was not able to notice at the time I created the image, due to either the distractions of sound and motion, or just the fact that we are all limited by the amount of information we can take in and process in any given period of time.

    Maybe it’s a way for us to make a statement that “I was here. I existed” The proof is in the pictures. We document our lives, our experiences, not necessarily for the purpose of sharing them with others, but more as mental cue cards to help us recall with greater clarity, the experiences of our lives. Memory is malleable, and over time details become lost, or changed. And what we remember may not actually be what “was”.

    In essence, pictures help us remember. They are the closest we have yet come to true time travel, to allow us to go back and experience the feelings we had, and remember.

    We take pictures of things that are important to us. Family gatherings, and other “life events” such as birthdays, weddings, and the birth and growth of a child. For many this is the extent of their picture making, documenting the good times, the major moments.

    But for those of us that takes things a step further, those of us that integrate this activity of recording our daily lives, we photographers want to capture not just the watershed moments, but also the many other, usually smaller yet still significant moments where something stuck us. Where we connected with a feeling, or were impacted by something we saw.

    This type of shooting is more than just a documentary of our lives, but rather and emotional journal. Capturing a mood, or a feeling, and attempting to express that feeling in an image. I say “Attempt” because this seems to be the most difficult of all things to accomplish. I my past ten years of photography, I can’t lay claim to ever really capturing a feeling.

    Not even once.

    We each carry our own filter through which we see the world, and the same image can speak in many different ways to different people. It all depends on each individuals own personal frame of reference, how their life experiences up to that point have colored their filter. An image that means very little to me can have a profound effect on another person if it strikes some sort of personal chord with them. The opposite also holds true. An image that I absolutely treasure can (and usually does) hold no interest to others.

    When I first took up photography I was only concerned about documenting as accurately as possible the scenes in front of me. This lead me down a long path of learning the equipment and techniques, the real “nuts and bolts” type of things related to image making.

    After 3-4 years I had pretty much figured out, through some trial and a lot of error, how to document an image. Perfect focus, sharpness, exposure, they were all there. Technically I had figured out how to take a picture. But my images started to feel stale.

    Sterile.

    Lifeless.

    In looking back into my photo archives I noticed that some of my more early images seemed to be better than what I had been recently producing, and upon examining them further I came to the realization that while it is important to learn the technical side of image making, it is equally important to shed that analytical skin and step into a more instinctive style to truly progress as an image maker. You have to know when to leave the nuts and bolts behind and trust your instincts in reaching towards a more ethereal goal; The capture of a feeling.

    When you first start taking pictures you just flail around. Then you learn the technical side and this allows you to more consistently capture what you intended. But once you are able to do that every time, then you should stop worrying so much about the technical things, by that time they will be deeply enough ingrained to be there even when you are not conscious of them. Just forget about all the technical stuff, and start flailing again. Shoot on instinct. The fact that you have learned the technical side will ensure you don’t stray too far off the path, but giving yourself the freedom to have fun again and “go nuts” will add a new refreshing dimension to your images.

    We often say “I took a picture”, and in most cases that is exactly what we have done. We have documented something as it was. But what is to me, the highest form of art, is when one is able to cross the threshold between taking pictures, and capturing emotions. And never worry about weather or not people like your images. After all, it is a subjective thing. So long as you are true to your own vision, and you enjoy the results then you can be sure that you are on the correct path.

    Our experiences make up the music of our lives, and at least for me, photographs are the notes.

  2. #2
    Deceased, but remembered fondly here... johnastovall's Avatar
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    Re: Why do we take pictures?

    As for 'Why's', why as van Gogh said, 'To make them say, 'He feels deeply. He feels tenderly.''

    "The market wants a Leica to be a Leica: the inheritor of tradition, the subject of lore, and indisputably a mark of status to own."
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  3. #3
    Senior Member kweide's Avatar
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    Re: Why do we take pictures?

    ... because we can not paint so fast... ?
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  4. #4
    Jeff Laitila
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    Re: Why do we take pictures?

    kweide,

    Indeed.

  5. #5
    tokengirl
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    Re: Why do we take pictures?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Laitila View Post
    So long as you are true to your own vision, and you enjoy the results then you can be sure that you are on the correct path.
    I totally agree with this.

    I'm not really sure I even care why I take pictures. As far as I can tell, I do it because I enjoy it. Seems to me that's a good enough reason as any.

  6. #6
    Super Duper
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    Re: Why do we take pictures?

    Honest answer?

    Because I can't paint.

    Otherwise I would instead, a far easier medium for expressing what I am trying to express with my art compared to the straight forward honesty of photography.
    I am not a painter, nor an artist. Therefore I can see straight, and that may be my undoing. - Alfred Stieglitz

    Website: http://www.timelessjewishart.com

  7. #7
    Super Duper
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    Re: Why do we take pictures?

    I can’t draw a straight line nor can I paint anything that would even closely resemble the landscape I see and feel; if I could life would be easier for me. I capture landscape to share with those who might not ever get the chance to see it and to protect it as well so people can see it for years to come.

    I shoot landscape because it brings me closer…

    I shoot landscape because it makes people happy…

    Happy New Years everyone please be safe!

    Don
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  8. #8
    Senior Member bensonga's Avatar
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    Re: Why do we take pictures?

    Maybe because I've been doing it for 35+ years and it's become a habit? Plus, I really like working with good equipment....and most of all, making prints. Gotta have images to make prints.

    Come to think of it, I might be just as happy to be a printer, first and foremost.....as long as I still got to play with the cameras now and then.

    And like others have said.....I can't draw or paint worth a darn.

    Gary

  9. #9
    Member Rick Waldroup's Avatar
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    Re: Why do we take pictures?

    Because I can't sing or dance......

  10. #10
    Super Duper
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    Re: Why do we take pictures?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Waldroup View Post
    Because I can't sing or dance......
    I’ve got a hard enough time walking a straight line most of the time!
    Don Libby
    Iron Creek Photography
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Rawfa's Avatar
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    Re: Why do we take pictures?

    At 11 years old I have moved from Rio de Janeiro (one of the largest cities in Brazil, with a population of over 10 million people) to a small city in Portugal with a population of around 25 thousand people. Needless to say that the adaptation was hard. This led me exploring different means of non conventional communication…so during the years I’ve lived there I’ve explored music (guitar and harmonica), coal drawing, theater, writing (although only recently I finally got published) and film. The fact that you could include all different art forms into film was very appealing to me and lead to work with it for over 8 years…but the more pro I got the more I’ve realized that there was also something very superficial about the entire process that was taking the magic away from it. Then some years ago I’ve finally found photography. A much more personal and individual expression form that so far seems to suit my character better than all other art forms (except maybe writing).

  12. #12
    Senior Subscriber Member Steen's Avatar
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    Re: Why do we take pictures?

    I think maybe an optical lens hit my head when I was a child
    Since then I have been obsessed with optical lenses and what they do to light.
    Photo lenses, binoculars, telescopes, etc.
    I love the perception of light. Inhaling it.
    Good light. And shadows.
    Cannot resist trying to capture it when I see it.
    It rarely serves any particular purpose


    here's a baby carriage in snowy weather, happy newyear to all of you


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  13. #13
    hellcreig
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    Re: Why do we take pictures?

    Well,
    I take photographs as a passion,
    for memories,
    for creativity.

  14. #14
    arthur17
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    Re: Why do we take pictures?

    I have enjoyed reading , photography for me is like improvisation in music , the scene is common to all , with the camera you modify it to what you are feeling during viewing the scene.

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