Telling Lives: The Power of Photographic Memoir, an excellent exhibit appearing in a nearby gallery, prompted me to consider the power of photography. It has often been stated that a photograph is a “captured moment in time”—a snatch of life, a split second of time recorded in an image. That captured moment is a memoir, a memory, of the past. It makes no difference if the image is that of people, a building, or a scene, it is still a memoir that “tells lives.”
For the observer the image demands that we ask questions. We know nothing of the story behind the photo. The few hints embedded in the photo makes us speculate about what we are seeing: What is going on in the lives of the people or in the life of the building? How did they/it get here? What was in the mind of the photographer that prompted him or her to take the photo?
Through our questions we create stories, we grapple with history, and speculate about the future. Through our questions we embed our own experiences into the image and make it part of who we our, part of our history.
If we pass by without asking the questions that the image asks of us we have experienced nothing but a mere picture – perhaps pretty, perhaps not – but still a mere picture, nothing more. When we do so we deprive ourselves of a maturing sense of history, we fail to grasp the significance of the image in the present moment, and worse yest, we fail to understand those hints of the future –our future– embedded in the image.
Round Rock, TX