There are many who consider the world has gone mad with snapping photos every minute, everywhere we go. And others who consider it to be a largely a technical exercise about capturing a scene or a moment accurately and clearly. But from where I sit, it’s more than that. So much more.
As I’ve become increasingly obsessed with photography, I’ve been asking myself why it is I’m dedicating so much time to this pastime. It turns out, on reflection, there’s a lot more to it than just snapping off a shot here and there. In fact, there’s a multitude of excellent reasons why photography matters. Here are some of my favourites.
- It’s a way of recording our lives and documenting our stories and what’s important to us. It can be how we remember those who came before us and what we’ll leave behind. Most people when asked what they would save from their house if it was on fire say their photos. We place a high value on them, far higher than their intrinsic value.
- “What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.” ― Karl Lagerfeld
- Photography is a way of communicating. I am a great lover of words, but photography adds another dimension to language. It’s a way of capturing not just landscapes and places, but stories, emotions, and all the moments that make up our lives. It’s a language that transcends all languages.
- “Photography is the story I fail to put into words.” — Destin Sparks
- Somehow taking a camera for a walk allows me to see the world differently. My eyes are opened to detail and beauty that I might have missed a hundred times before. Try it.
- “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” — Dorothea Lange
- Photography can release your inner artist and allows you to put forward your own creative slant on the world. I struggle to draw a recognisable stickman, but photography allows me to overcome my lack of artistic talent. It’s not necessarily easy but the pictures and palettes are already created and all I have to do is see them, capture them my way and paint them with light. Unlimited scope for creativity.
- “Photograph: a picture painted by the sun without instruction in art.” — Ambrose Bierce
- Learning new photographic skills is fantastic exercise for your brain, and there is certainly a lot to learn. Research abounds that learning new skills can changes brain function and can help stave off the effects of ageing, and who doesn’t want that? It’s all about neurogenesis: by learning new skills and taking up new mental challenges, we can strengthen existing neural pathways in the brain and even make new connections.
- Photography is good for your mental health. There is much evidence that art therapy and creativity are effective ways of improving mental health. When you’re looking for a photo and concentrating on your work, you’re being present and creative, and practising mindfulness – being in the moment – without even knowing it. Many people use the focus required for photography as a calming or healing mechanism. It’s also an accessible and non-threatening way to communicate and for people to share thoughts, fears, frustration and joys.
- “The key to it is that you have to recognise that you need to be mindful to take great pictures. You need to give yourself permission to stop and step away from the demands of normal life.” —Paul Sanders
- It’s not just your mind that can get a work out. Photography gets you out and about, disguising your long walks or clambers up hills for a better vantage point as an outing. It’s certainly about the only thing that will get me up early in the morning to catch a sunrise. You can do it alone, or join in with others with a similar interest.
Here are some ways to share the photography love with others.
- Photography can be a way of healing. The act of recording someone’s life in a photographic exhibition or in a photo book, or even viewing it, can be cathartic. It is used as a tool to assist with mental illness and coping with grief. I love the very sad but very special work of Heartfelt , an organisation which facilitates volunteer photographers to record stillbirths or losses for families. Tough work but so appreciated by the families to have their precious limited time and memories captured beautifully.
- “Photography is a magical kind of art that allows people to preserve time and moments, and to describe the world the way they see it.” ― Sahara Sanders
So even more excuses to keep out there taking more pics, and knowing it’s good for me.
And as I gradually learn more and exercise my neural pathways as well as my legs, I take comfort in the words of Henri Cartier-Bresson: “Your first 10, 000 photographs are your worst.”
I’ve surely done that many. I might be starting to get there.