Why Do We Photograph?

I believe there is at least one book with this title, and I know that many, perhaps most, photographers ask themselves at some point this very question. I make my living with my mind and my tongue. I am a teacher. For me, being a teacher means first and foremost that I am a learner. I am a life-long learner. Like all people I learn from experience, but I am also an avid reader. So I make my living learning, reading and teaching. As Solomon said, “much study wearies the body” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). My life is lived more through my eyes than my ears. So it seems to me that photography has become a natural release for me from the weariness of study, and from the public activity of teaching. Mostly I photograph alone. It is a kind of meditation without words. It is an exploration without books. Photography allows me to just see, simply observe, without logic, without sound, only what I see. Anything can become the object of seeing, people, places, nature, events. If it is visible it is a possible subject. I need to support my habit, so I do think sometimes of what might sell, but selling is not the primary purpose. It is a corollary, an add-on to just seeing and recording what I see. I see no end in sight to this activity. We humans cannot keep the moments of our lives. They come and they go. It is always the moment, the next moment and the next until the last. We make a picture of a moment of what we saw, but then it is gone except in the gossamer file, that also will be gone some day. The files may become aids to memory. They may bring a smile, or a tear, or nothing. Such is photography to me. But it is also for others. Though I photograph alone most of the time, some of it is for sharing later. There are the family moments, and public events that should be shared. There are the wonderful natural moments that bring a certain joy to be offered to others who appreciate a hummingbird at a Lantana blossom, or a magnificent sunrise. Photography was never meant to be private, any more than other art forms. These are some of the reasons I photograph. There may be more that I have not seen, yet.

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