We are inundated with photos on a daily basis. Whether it is through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat, it is impossible to go through your day without seeing photos of friends and their activities. No matter how frivolous the activity may be, some document their lives inside and out. They could be eating a sandwich or mailing a letter; it does not matter.
We have reached a point in culture where we are so oversaturated with media and images that the art and craft of photography has simply lost its meaning, its spark so to speak. Let me put it this way: many people, primarily those of younger generations, just don’t know what they have when it comes to photography. What does a picture mean to them? What does a picture represent nowadays?
A hundred years ago, most families couldn’t afford photographs; they were a luxury, dreamed about and salivated over. The only photos they could afford were of the recently deceased. Think on that for a moment; let it sink into your head. Photography and death went hand-in-hand. You go through your entire life, not being photographed and then when you die, you finally get that long-awaited snapshot. Back then, snapping someone’s photo was likened to capturing that person’s soul, his or her essence.
We have gone from photography capturing someone’s soul to capturing someone’s daily minutiae, certainly a case of going from one extreme to another. While photography is prevalent, is it necessarily relevant? If not, it should be, it needs to be, because…
Tucked away in your dresser is a small shoebox. Its contents consist of old family photos. There is a couple of your great-great uncle, who was a cop, accustomed to walking the beat. Then there are pictures of who you assume to be your great-great grandmother, many of which are of her in a strange and unfamiliar field, flowers in her hair and a smile on her face. She is…beautiful, goddess-like even!
While you have never met these people, they are still family, the only tangible evidence that your DNA has been on a strange and exhilarating journey. It is the story of you. Looking at these pictures fills you with nostalgia. You feel closer to these pictures than you do with members of your living and breathing family. What gives? Well, this is the essence of photography, its underappreciated soul, something that Facebook uploads can nowhere near compare to.
Susan Sontag says, “All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” Time’s relentless melt – what a phrase! This melt is impossible to avoid, so all you can do is freeze a slice and break it off.
As you look at the picture of your great-great grandmother, you see some of your face in her. Such a relationship perseveres through time’s relentless melt. You had your great-great uncle and great-great grandmother share the same mortality, vulnerability and mutability.
You see? That’s the essence of photography – this mortality, vulnerability and mutability. That is something I provide with every photo I take. Hello. My name is Brian Masserman and I’m the owner of Masserman Photography. Welcome to the blog! For decades, we have specialized in the art of fine photography, covering everything from weddings to family portraits in the Southeast Michigan area. We have photographed people as young children in school to young adults getting married. We believe in the power of photography to chart the growth of the soul, not the intricacies of one’s daily grind. Photography should say something, should be an EKG of the soul. What do you think?