In just 12 years, we’ll be celebrating the 200th anniversary of photography. It’s hard to believe that those early daguerreotypes made in the 1820s spawned a culture where 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day.
Those of us hanging out here at Photofocus tend to think about the “serious” photographs. Those made with purpose and designed to have maximum impact. But everyday selfies, snapshots, vacation photos, etc., are just as important. They all have one thing in common. They capture a moment in time that can be kept, protected, and shared.
And you never know what will come out of photo shoot.
Our society documents everything. 200 years ago that was unheard of. We’ve come to rely on pictures to represent what happened. We know that a photo of our great, great, grandparents represents people who have passed on. But so will that selfie you took with the homeless guy.
In short, no click of the shutter is unimportant, but some are more powerful and important than others.
- In 1912 a merchant seaman made the last image of the Titanic before it sank.
- In 1937 cameras captured the Hindenburg disaster.
- In 1945 American bombers photographed the destruction of war from the viewpoint of the bombardier.
- In 1956 photographers documented the Hungarian revolution.
- In 1960 a news photographer photographed the moment that Ruby Bridges became the first African-American to attend a White elementary school in the south.
- In 1989 photographers shot pictures of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
One thing that I try to remember is you may not know you’re shooting what will become a piece of history. You also never know when something you photograph may be here one day and gone the next.
I’m old enough that things like that have happened to me time and time again.
One of the most memorable was the fall of Jody’s Bridge. Years ago I had a cabin near Mt. Rainier National Park. There was an old forest service road that only the locals knew about. It ended at a one-lane bridge over the clear fork of the Cowlitz River. The bridge washed away in the floods of 2008 that also took out the Carbon River Road at Mt. Rainier National Park. The place was called “Jody’s Bridge.” It was one of my favorite spots in the whole wide world and it’s gone. It will almost certainly not be rebuilt. The photo of the river bend shot accompanying this post is not possible without the bridge. Residents of Packwood, WA have flocked to this image because they want to remember this lovely spot.
The point of all this is simple.
Photographs matter. Photography matters. Photographers matter. You never know when an image will end up being important or who it will be important to, but you can count on one thing for sure. At some point in your photographic career you will make an image that changes things. Why not start shooting right now as if your images will be the last ones made of your subject? If you can think like that your photography will improve and it won’t cost you a dime.
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