Why Do You Take Photographs?
|I photograph to see what the world looks like in photographs.
Garry Winogrand was a street photographer known for his depictions of American Life in the 60s. We can all draw our own conclusions as to what Mr Winogrand meant when he made this comment, but my own interpretation is that he felt photography was a looking glass that offered its own particular vision of the World. By extension, this means he didn’t see the camera as an instrument that reproduced or represented reality, but maybe as an entity with a mind of its own that interpreted reality in its own way. As such, Mr Winogrand’s mission when photographing was clear: To be the vehicle that transported his camera from scene to scene (and changed the film when needed). He was then curious to see what it was the camera had observed and reproduced.
I’m sure Mr Winogrand was more in control of his camera than my wild mental meandering might imply, but I do think he believed what was etched on his film was something different to what he had seen with his own eyes. His curiosity to capture these differences is what drove him to photograph. I think we can all relate to this at some level.
Humans display a natural propensity for curiosity. Observe a baby looking around wide-eyed at the world beyond the confines of the crib—it is out of curiosity. The reason we have microscopes or telescopes is because somebody one day wondered what things would look like magnified; we probably consume hallucinogenic drugs just to see what the world looks like from an altered perspective.
“Curiosity drives Humankind, yet it seems it is memories that drives the vast majority of photographers.”
Curiosity drives Humankind, yet it seems it is memories that drives the vast majority of photographers. I believe there are two types of photography: that which is art, and that which is frozen memory. The former does not necessarily concern itself with reality, while the latter insists on reproducing it as closely as possible. The objectives of a fashion photographer shooting the cover of Vogue are far removed from those of a father photographing his daughter’s 5th birthday. What moves each of these photographers to pick up a camera must therefore be different.
I have been struggling with the question that is the title of this piece for a few weeks now, and I am no closer to an answer than I was when I began. Despite my clearly left-brain oriented life, there are certain things I do not wonder about and simply do. Photography is one of them. Enticing the Light was an attempt at organising those thoughts or intuitions which could be put into words, those which mattered to Photography (with a capital P), with the hope that they may become clearer to me and to others, that we may all emerge better photographers through this process.
I have believed that knowing why I wanted to take photographs would help me make better images, and yet I’m starting to wonder whether it’s not the process instead of the end result that really matters to me. I don’t hide my images (there are plenty of them in various websites), and I spent time working on each one (both behind the camera and in front of the computer) to make them look like they did in my mind; but once a photograph is finished I lose interest in it and start thinking about the next one.
I am now starting to think that the reason I like taking photographs is because I like taking photographs. While this may sound like a circular argument, or worse still, that I’m losing my mind, I think it does make sense if you spend a moment thinking about it.
If I love the process so much, can taking better care of, and paying more attention to, the process help me make better photographs? That is something I can only discover on my own. And I intend to.
Now please ask yourself: Why do you take photographs?
Despite my opening quote and subsequent paragraphs, I believe Mr Winogrand and I may share a common reason for liking photography: When he died in 1984 he left behind over 2,500 rolls of unprocessed film…maybe he wasn’t so curious about his photographs after all! But he certainly enjoyed making them.