Why Photography?

Let us leave pretty women to men with no imagination.

I mean, everybody can take a photo with their phone! And just like in the case of creative writing, the artificial intelligence can instantly generate images for you, in every style you can possibly think of, from the simplest technique of painting to the most absurd ways of image digital manipulation! And, in a world of videos and moving GIFs, why would someone appreciate a photo you take and then an image you share somewhere, no matter where!?!

Let’s be serious! Photography is dead! If an image is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million words…

However, there are some aspects linked to photography that should be taken into consideration.

People take photos because they need memories. Yes, you can save videos, but there is something hyper realistic and flashy about videos that made them not suitable for being framed and put on a wall or a fireplace or a desktop. The movement distracts us. And sometimes seeing videos of persons who passed away or times of happiness from the past are too violent, too intense in a psychological sense. So we need photos, which are… emotionally safer… They just stay there, silent, where we left them, either in a photo album, or online, or hanging on our wall.

Another aspect is that people often need to recall the idea behind an image and not the actual image. We often choose desktop or smartphone wallpapers for what they signify, suggest or represent, and not for what they concretely are. Photos – I speak mostly about creative photography – are actually symbols and metaphors. They convey a story, a mood, an original way of seeing perhaps the same thing. They often reframe reality.

This reminds me of a situation I encountered in a book about mentalization: it’s about a child playing with a blanket or a bed sheet put on his shoulders like a mantle or a cloak, pretending to be a hero. When his parents latter bought for him the costume of his hero, a very realistic outfit, the child refused it. He said that it was important for him to imagine himself as being his hero and not to accurately dress like one. Too much reality was too much to bear and it was sabotaging his imagination; the child needed to pretend to be a prince, to fake being one in his mind, not to be dressed like one. I write this and I think about the many children I saw dressed like Spiderman or Batman, and even immature and embarrassing adults who failed to emotionally depart from childhood, but I guess you get the idea.

Similarly, photography has an untold history behind, and the viewer is invited to decode the hidden message, while the video medium is painfully obvious, showing too much (or everything), leaving little or no room for phantasy. Marcel Proust has seen this almost a hundred years ago, hence the quote at the beginning of the article. There is an art of playing with imagination, an art to cover and to discover, the same art making the difference between an erotic movie and a pornographic one: the first one is about inducing a mood in a suggested, implicit way; the latter is mostly about technique, or method, shown in an explicit way. Or, to change again the focus, there is a qualitative difference between the image of a nude and the image of the same nude on high-heeled shoes…

This year I started to use open license images for my blog. I mean, most people did that for many years already… As long as they are allowed and free to use, why not “enhance” my articles with photos I would never be able to take!?! But then I started to feel odd: the same image appeared in other corners of the internet. It seemed like it was no longer unique… and it truly wasn’t. It was similar to asking the artificial intelligence to write your texts and also generate your images: Where was You in that process?!

In a world of fakes and repetitive information, including images, your photography, even ugly or of poor quality, is nevertheless yours. It’s like going to a pottery shop and buying expensive, imperfect plates and cups, knowing that there are also for sale cheap, “almost-perfect” “industrial” ones. The difference lies in the workmanship, in the fabrication method. And “original” will always be better paid, provided there is some talent and/or fame attached… And seeing where the world is heading, something made by an actual human and not a machine might be of value someday, not too far away in the future, regardless of the skill…

So, here they are, three reasons for continuing or – why not? – starting creative photography: making silent memories, expressing an idea or mood for those with imagination or symbolical mind, and expressing the uniqueness of one’s vision for those who appreciate this and care about quality.

I used for this article some photos taken in the garden. They might be naïve. It was intended to be so. It is what you can do with a phone with a camera and a desire – or itch – to take photos. And yes, I am done with images made by others; I am back to 100% original content on this blog. And if I have no suitable image for an article, well… we will voyage again through the clouds…

In conclusion, so as to end the article in the same way I did with the one about writing, do you take photos? No? You think you have no talent? Or that nobody is going to appreciate your art? Well… look at me! I have taken millions of photos and there are thousands on this blog. Nobody looks at them. So what? I look at them myself: they are my memories, my symbols, my visual way of expression.

I know… you think that you’re not that great.

But maybe you are!

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  1. “Laissons les jolies femmes aux hommes sans imagination.” Et là que de belles plantes… Sans jeu de mot 😉 En tout cas de belles images 🙂