“There is one thing the photograph must contain,
the humanity of the moment.” — Robert Frank
Painters, sculptors and many other artists start with a blank canvass and create art – their view of the world. On the other hand, photographers start with the realities of our world and reflect that back to us. The photograph reflects a moment of the world we are a part of and live in – its trials, tribulations, anxieties, as well as those moments of joy, hope, aspiration and beauty.
An article on June 30th, 2017 in Time magazine noted that photography is our eye to the world. Photographers “inform us, they inspire us, they amaze us, they put our world in the broader context of history.” Photographers sort out the chaos of the world into singular images that bring clarity to the free-for-all of life. “They are the witnesses and artists who can distill the mayhem and beauty that surrounds us. They call our attention to the things we miss in our everyday lives… Photographers teach us to look again, look harder. Look through their eyes.”
Recently, The New York Times posted a series of images entitled “Still Life”. This article/photo essay introduces a number of photographers with different perspectives/subject matter in the context of the current coronavirus situation — “in this unnatural state of isolation, photographers show us the things that bind.” In another New York Times article they recently asked readers to submit photos taken before the virus that might have seemed like small moments and now feel weighty and important – some of the “last moments you felt like life was normal.”
Whether we make images ourselves or whether the photographs are ones that we look at and enjoy, the photographs of this time (and other times) help us make sense of our lives. During these days when we all stay home and social distance, nothing feels normal and time vanishes in front of us. However, we all have images of captured moments of time — even as the time moved onward. The images of personal experiences, from the past and present, become important memories. And today, those important times and memories are no further away than the phones that are in our pockets and almost always with us. Other images may be on your desk or maybe they take the form of a beautiful print that you admired and now hangs on your wall.
Whatever the format, the images show us more than just a moment lost to time. They reflect back to us our priorities, values and our engagement with the world. Photographs speak about the way we experience our lives.
“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever…
It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.”
— Aaron Siskind