On Photography (Inspired by Susan Sontag’s Essay of the Same Title)
I’m not sure exactly when I decided that I wanted to, but at some point in my early childhood, I had decided that I loved taking pictures and that I wanted to be a really good photographer. I knew that this took practice and a lot of knowledge of how a fancy, expensive camera works, but I had my tiny purple Kodak camera and the only knowledge I possessed about the art of photography was that in order to take a good picture, you had to see the beauty in everything. I felt it took a special eye to do that, and I was teaching myself how to look for it.
So when Sontag says in her essay On Photography that “Photography has become one of the principal devices for experiencing something, for giving an appearance of participation,” I would agree. I took my camera with me in this old black camera bag my dad had given to me to every field trip, family event, or school party where I felt there might be something happening worth capturing. I had always wanted to feel more involved in these special events, but I was too shy and resorted to using the camera as a comfort blanket. I didn’t want my picture taken, so I decided to take the pictures instead. I felt taking these pictures was a valid excuse for me to not have to actually participate in these events and also a great way for me to avoid the social awkwardness I felt that I caused.
Sontag has a really interesting viewpoint on photography when she says “Photography is essentially an act of nonintervention” and later expands this point by saying “the person who intervenes cannot record; the person who is recording cannot intervene”. This is a very logical approach to the act of photography. Obviously a person who is taking the photo cannot physically be participating in the event they’re photographing, but a picture only takes a few moments to capture. Sontag seems to have a very negative connotation associated with this idea of “nonintervention”, but I don’t believe it is always that way. I can see how in some instances, it might be a better choice to stop a wrongdoing than to record it, but photographing the moment is sometimes very beneficial in the future. It is primarily by pictures that we remember and if that person had not stopped for the few moments it took to get a good picture, what account would we have of our history? If I hadn’t taken all of the photos that I had during field trips in grade school, I don’t believe I could remember them as well. Even now, if you were to ask me to tell you about one in particular, I wouldn’t be able to tell you very much, but give me a stack of the photos I took from that trip and suddenly memories would come flooding back in. It might sound crazy, but even with some of these photos, particularly in ones that I took, I can remember the moment almost as if it was happening right now.
I still take photos, but not quite to the almost obsessive compulsive way that I used to. I don’t feel like I have to take a million photos to save the moment in my memory. I know now that the most important moments will be remembered in other ways. Oddly enough now, instead of being behind the camera, I often find myself in the picture, by myself. The presence of the social networking like Twitter and Facebook have brought this about because when you make a profile on any of these sites, they’re all about you and how you want to present yourself. I would sum up social networking’s purpose in three words: individualized attention seeking. However, the attention you seek isn’t always the attention you get. I have noticed from the many “selfies” that girls tend to take and post on these sites that the less clothing they have on, the more “likes” they’ll get. Sure, they want the likes. We all want approval and that’s what those likes give us. It lets us feel better about ourselves and it’s a glorified way of asking all of your friends (and now the internet)”Do I look pretty?” However, most of the people who are ‘liking’ the photo are not necessarily approving of you, but of the revealing photo you are using to represent you. I read a joke once that said something like “Wow, you don’t look like 200 likes in person” and though it may be a bit harsh, I found it hilarious because of how true it can be. People don’t present themselves on these sites as they truly are, so it can be a bit of a surprise when you see this person in real life with no filter or hashtags to decorate them. You realize that people are not as “swag” as they edit themselves to be.
I learned in a photography class I took in high school that you can manipulate your subject to look a lot differently than it might appear simply by altering the angle with which you take the photo. Finally, after years and years of aspiring to be a great photographer, I understood how you could see the beauty in everything. All you had to do was alter the angle.
"There are some people who could hear you speak a thousand words, and still not understand you. And there are others who will understand — without you even speaking a word."