Why Photography Matters – Essay Part 1

Part 1 of this essay I began by describing the reasons that led me here. It has been a thoughtful process over the years to examine what it is about photography that has instilled such desires to understand more. It is a part of life. Photographs have become a part of every ones life. From the media we see, watch and participate in the still images from our lives linger, at times determining out fate. I find it no stretch by any means that photographs matter, much more than is initially experienced.

Last night I had a dream. The ordinary fuzzy type of dream that I expect many of us have. There was something that stuck with me from this dream. Many times dreams come and go never to be thought of again at least not in the awakened state. This dream had as part of it a person that from my conscious recollection I have not thought about for over 30 years. A father figure of a childhood friend. Why would this person now some 30 plus years later be in a dream of mine? Giving this a little deeper thought I could see in my minds eye that they were in a sense snap shots. Snap shots of years long ago and not fully understood at the time of the experience. Our minds are far beyond our understanding of how and why they do what they do. So goes the capture of an image. Experienced but as time goes on additional experiences and events shape and alter our understanding.

It should be no surprise that the photographs created today will have an impact on our lives. What exactly this impact will be is yet to be determined. Would it not then be advantageous to build our database of experiences to provide a wide array of future opportunities? The visual nature of photographs, those moments plucked from time have a far more lasting impact than moments where no photographs exists. Moments distilled into images that can be experienced again in our conscious awakened state simply from the viewing of them.

I would challenge one to view a photograph that was made in your presence and not have those moments come back. This can extend beyond the necessity of  the need to even be present at the time. There are core foundations that we as humans experience. Most notably nature. We seem to think of ourselves and then think of nature as two separate entities. This simply is not the case. The bounties of our natural world nourish the life we live. We don’t have the ability to hit a delete button in our minds. Our thoughts, experiences, and memories are after all the very fabric of our being. Photographs play the role as our life’s resources.

I will end this part with a quote I came across recently from Brooks Jensen, photographer and editor of the online and print publication Lenswork.

“Viewing photographs may not connect the viewer to the scene but it shows the viewer the photographer was connected to the scene.  In that since it tells us something about the maker. That they chose that place, that moment, that composition to expose, produce and preserve the evidence.

Of all the moments of their life, all the clicks of the shutter, these are the ones the photographer has chosen to submit as evidence of their life. I try to remember that every time I look at a photographers work. Perhaps that is the best reason I can offer for the photographs. I hope they communicate something about life and the land, but if they only offer something about me, that will have to do.”

-From Book Jensens, Kokoro, ebook.



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© Brad Mangas