There are many reasons why I make photographic images; Artistic value, commercial value (potential!), sometimes I am just attracted to the scene and I want to record it. Sometimes it is just a record of where I have been to jog my memory of happy times – particularly whilst on holiday. I am not alone; more photographs are taken now than at any time in history. They do not have to be of great technical value (although, I do have standards!) here are some of mine.
I decided to revisit this topic in April 2015 and I asked my Facebook friends the following question:-
It seems that everyone is a photographer these days and there are very many reasons why people take/make photographs. I am embarking on a little project which involves these many reasons and I am asking for your help. I would like you to tell me in a single words or a few words; why do you take photographs? All that I am after is a list please, however, if you want to go into further detail then that would be welcome too. This request is for everyone and not just for those who would call themselves “a photographer” – everyone takes photos, but by the same token, no-one is obliged to take part. I would be grateful for your help, thank you.
This blog post was more or less my project. I am grateful to all of the twenty-five friends who replied. The responses that I got from nearly all of the respondents was that they primarily took photographs to record memories of the event, holiday, beauty of their surroundings, so that they could recall them later to remind them of the good, happy, or perhaps in some cases sad times. To record their life in a way that cannot be disputed in order to correct inaccuracies in our own memories – “the camera never lies” – a contentious point and one I may come back to in another posting, but our own memory is inclined to throw up inaccuracies or at least a dispute with others who were there – what better than to have photographic proof? Some people also responded that they took photographs so that they could share the experience with others who were not there to enrich the conversation whilst retelling the story. For many, it was about remembering those who are no longer with us, which I took to mean those who had died, but it could just as easily have been those who have moved away – absent friends – or have been away for a prolonged period of time. One of my friends took photographs just for the enjoyment of the act – a very keen fine art photographer who enjoys making the photograph and has been very successful in scoring well in competitions. One of my respondents took photographs as part of textile arts and other artistic projects, the end result not being a photograph but some other artistic piece. Some enjoyed seeing the world in a different way or from a different viewpoint such as that provided by macro photography. People like to look at photographs, one person stated that she liked to study the character of faces in photographs – I think that many of us like to do that, and with a photograph you can do that without coming into conflict with the subject – “what are you staring at?”; we are very curious about other people. One person said that she used her camera to record information to save having to write it down, and I must confess having done that myself – it is probably commonplace although it is not necessarily what comes to mind when asked the question (above). I have been known to take photographs of things that I have come across whilst shopping if unsure about them so I could canvas the opinion of my wife (or in one case – mother-in-law as I was out buying something on her behalf) so somewhere, I have a picture of a kettle and a microwave, each of which I photographed and then sent a text with the photo attached – I know that is commonplace too.
Most people make the distinction between the photographs that they take for memory recollection or record purposes, and that of the work of professional photographer. Although one person expressed disappointment at his efforts at times, all are happy when they have captured the moment – people don’t have the same expectations of their photographs as they would of a professional – their photographs serve very different purposes.
There are some of my friends who are enthusiastic amateur photographers, and they strive for and produce very nice work. Two of the friends that responded are long established professional photographers and they both earn a good living from it, but it is the love of photography that drives them; as one put it that he loves to “capture that split second in time”. Both of them consider themselves very fortunate to be earning a living from something that they enjoy immensely and are very good at.
There are many professional photographers who feel threatened by the advent of compact digital cameras, and more latterly by good quality cameras in mobile phones, but they shouldn’t. The general public, if my straw poll of my friends are anything to go by, see their collection of memories and other uses that they collect with their mobile devices, as quite distinctly different to what a professional photographer does. Any professional “worth his or her salt” will survive (not withstanding business skills). I had a good idea what the outcome might be; it wasn’t a foregone conclusion. There are many reasons why people take photographs, not all of them purely aesthetic, but all equally valid. We live in an age where the technology exists that enables us to record our life for posterity and we just love it!