A Theory of Photography

With a nod to the American conceptual artist, Mel Bochner, who created a work entitled “Misunderstandings (A Theory of Photography)  in 1971, I’m borrowing a quote from that work by the French novelist and playwright, Emil Zola, “In my opinion, you cannot have thoroughly seen anything until you have a photograph of it.”

Photography makes us see the world differently.  Literally, if you’ll pardon the intentional pun, through a different lens.

A camera, and by that I mean any type of device or camera ranging from a pinhole to a photogram (which means no camera at all, actually), which allows us to capture a moment in time and space and make it permanent, notwithstanding those websites and social media devices that are entirely transitory, is a tool of great importance. It allows us to experience a magical moment. Henri Cartier Bresson called it the “decisive moment.”  It’s the essence of what makes a photograph a photograph.  In the day of Emil Zola, photographers were worried that George Eastman and his box camera were going to ruin photography.  “You Press The Button, We Do The Rest” was the slogan of the Eastman Kodak Company.  Everyone was now capable of making photographs.  The same is true today, but photographers need not worry.  Despite the fact that more than 1.8 billion photographs are uploaded to the internet every day, there is still a need for all photographers, amateurs and pros alike. With those billions of photographs that make it into social media, it’s my hope that they are allowing people to “see” the world better.  With the work created by photojournalists and art photographers every day, I hope that they too help people see the world better.  It’s how photography brings us beauty, truth, sorrow, pain, and so many other human emotions.  For those that worry that photography in the traditional sense is dying, don’t.  It didn’t happen 130 years ago and it’s not happening now. Enjoy the world more.  See anew.  Look at a photograph.  

Using Format