“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.” – Diane Arbus
Many of us have been asked or are bound to be asked, “Why do you still shoot film at this time and age?” While this question and all the answers we conjure are important, I think what matters more is to ask ourselves every now and then: Why do we take photos in the first place?
At a time and age where everyone can practically own a camera or a smartphone with decent picture-taking capabilities, there’s this lingering risk of reducing photography to a cyclical social media activity. One takes a photo, spends some time to edit it a little (or a little too much), uploads it to blogs and social media accounts, gets people to comment, then everyone eventually forgets about it. The cycle repeats, and the photograph is cast into the depths of cyberspace, practically consigned to oblivion unless someone unearths it and proceeds to sharing, liking, and commenting.
Back in the days, however, picking up a camera meant more than just taking up a new hobby. It could have started as such, but it eventually served a far more eloquent purpose: to tell compelling stories, to open minds and hearts to various realities, to present a moment frozen in time. In other words, to let people see the world through their (the photographers’) eyes and lens.
“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them,” American photographer Diane Arbus once said, and I’d like to take it as a good example of the photographer’s eloquent purpose. Arbus became known for taking photos of eccentric subjects that made her an equally eccentric photographer at the time. But, when she took on the task of photographing subjects that others shunned, Arbus gave the world more than just a bunch of photos of “freaks”; she told us that these people exist, and offered us a glimpse of what life was like for the so-called “deviant and marginal people” that lived amongst us.
This, I believe is the mindset and sense of purpose that we should all adapt whenever we have a camera in our hands. Before we point it to a subject, a landscape, or an event unfolding before us, let’s ask ourselves: What message, story, or reality do we want convey in this shot? By doing so, we can, like Arbus continues to do with her own snaps, let people see the things they otherwise might not see, if not for our photographs.
Do you share the same thoughts and sentiment? I’d like to know what you think, so please leave a comment below and let’s get some discussion running!