Wednesday, October 07, 2009
There are so many circles and cycles in photography, ebbs and flows, new things and old, twists and turns, reinventions and imitations, new technologies and rediscoveries of old ones. And they all sort of overlap and feed into one another.
I’m not sure any of us is able to say something entirely new with our work; all that we can hope to do is discover a voice within us - one that sounds slightly different from the voices that make up the huge swell of what has already been said.
You undoubtedly see pieces of me in each photographer I have written about the past few days. There are “nods” to many of them in my work. There are outright cases of pilfering of ideas. There are gently borrowed stepping-off points. There are attempts at going down a similar path. There is also an outpouring of respect and honor for them. As I get older and make more work, I do hope that along the way, my own voice has come through a little louder and a little more clearly with each passing squeeze of the shutter, each passing project, each passing year.
Photography is by far the most democratic of mediums. Practically anyone can take a picture, and practically everyone does. Now that most of us carry around a camera (a cell phone or a point & shoot) at all times, there is very little that goes unphotographed in the world these days. We are all photographers now.
The lines that separate fine art photographers, commercial photographers, war photographers, fashion photographers, street photographers, self-portrait makers, family documentarians, news photographers, portrait photographers, kid shooters, landscape photographers, friends having fun at parties, etc. are getting fuzzier with each passing technology and each passing day.
Ultimately, though, I believe we all simply just trying to say these sorts of things:
THIS MOMENT HAPPENED.
THESE PEOPLE SUFFERED.
MY FAMILY GATHERED THERE.
THIS HOUSE STOOD HERE.
I WAS IN PAIN.
THIS LAND THRIVED.
WE LOVED EACH OTHER.
Here’s a little story about a photograph I took and then gave away. It was at the orphanage. On my second trip, I took lots of portraits of the children and then printed them on my portable printer. I gave a picture to each of the kids I had photographed – just a little snapshot, nothing special really. To them, of course, it was a huge gift. It was, in some cases, a first glance at themselves. For others, it was the first time they had ever owned a picture of themselves. For most it became one of a very few possessions they had. It was, in short, a treasure.
On my last day, amid the hugs and tears, one little boy came up to me, stretched his arm up toward my face and opened his hand to reveal the picture I had taken of him. He wanted me to have it. I’ll never forget what he said as he handed me the photo - one of his few belongings.
PLEASE DON’T FORGET ME.
(i exist, see?)
The power of photography. Voice after voice after voice… in a museum, in a family album, on a cell phone, in a little boy’s hand, in my desk drawer.