Photographers sometimes complain that, with the proliferation of cameras these days, everyone is a photographer. As for me, I think it’s great. The more photography, the better!
On my shelf is a wonderful book called Photography Changes Everything. Edited by Marvin Heiferman and published by the Smithsonian Institution in 2012, this book is a collection of short articles by dozens of writers, each of whom tells us about one thing in the human world that photography has changed – from love to politics to how we collect mushrooms. It’s beautiful and intelligent and I highly recommend it. Here’s a really good interview with the editor of this book, published in Wired a couple of years ago.
I bought the book because, frankly, I really think that photography does change everything. Look around you. I guarantee that if you look up from your device and look around wherever you are, you will find a photograph somewhere, or something influenced by a photograph. Photography, the “bastard child of art and science,” is everywhere.
When I wanted to celebrate my parents at their 50th anniversary party ten (!) years ago, I got old photos and made a slide show that was played to music. My mother still talks about that.
When my old Goldendoodle died recently, my ex asked me for photos of him she could send around and post to Facebook. Of course I had a bunch, because hey, I’m always pointing my camera at the animals in my life as well as the people, and I loved going through them looking for the ones that really told the story of his life.
One of my all-time favourite photos is of my girlfriend, who was in the studio with me within weeks of our relationship starting, and will be again, I hope.
Never mind me, though. Photography changed history. It has been credited with helping end wars, for example in Vietnam. It was crucial to the Tien An Men events in 1989, and things have been written about its influence on the American Civil War. Photography has been central to the development and human rights advances we have made over the last century, and will no doubt be important to future advances. Just think of Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother,” Alfred Stieglitz’s depiction of class differences in 1907’s The Steerage, and of course the many photos of the US Civil Rights movement. (By the way, Time Magazine recently published what it thinks are the 100 most influential photos of all time. It’s worth a look.
I can’t imagine newspapers or magazines without photography — never mind the internet.
But maybe you’re thinking, “sure, but what about video! Video is becoming way more important that photography.” Well, yes. But video is a development from photography. First we had pictures. Then we had moving pictures. Photography really has changed our way of relating to and interacting with the world. It created movies.
These days, they say everyone is a photographer, because for cryin’ out loud, your freakin’ cell phone is a camera now. A lot of my fellow photographers worry that this means the art of photography has been devalued, and maybe that’s true to an extent (the topic of a future post, perhaps). But I see it differently: photography is so valuable, so important, and so central to our lives that it’s perfectly normal that we would all want to participate in it, and why not?
So I say – grab your camera, whether it’s on your phone or not, and make some pictures today!
Find something that moves you, or that you find impotant or beautiful or memorable, and try to capture that something in just one image. Put a filter on it or not, then post it somewhere, or print it and put it on your wall. Photography not only changes everything, it is for everyone.