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Why Do We Shoot?

June 1, 2012

Why do we shoot?

Why do shoot photo essays?

Why do we catalogue other people’s lives?

What significance does our photograph hold to others?

Why do we try to explain?

These are questions that have been plaguing me ever since I began shooting. I know the answers, in some part of me. But just when I think I’ve almost got the words for it, they fade away.

Today, I think the answer is ‘just because’.

As simple as that. Just because I like to shoot. Because I think there is a story and I want to tell that story. Just because I want to tell that story in my way. Just because I see something and it intrigues me.

Perhaps I will never find a ‘justifiable’ answer that people can comprehend. How do I explain this need to capture something on frame? That I see an image, a juxtaposition, an irony, a memory, a contrast, a sameness, a definition and I want to preserve that moment.

The images we shoot will perhaps lose relevance some day. That someday, someone will see the photograph of the pool I took today and shrug and move on.

Or maybe they will sit and wonder why someone took this photograph. They will wonder about the story behind the pool.

Was there a reason why the cavemen drew on walls of his cave? It was art, it was a message or perhaps he was just sharpening his stone axe and we interpreted as something more.

Art often lies in the art of the creator and explained through the voice of a viewer. And they can and often are radically different.

If we asked Picasso why he painted something, or Wordsworth about why he composed a poem about daffodils, they would probably give us very disillusioning answers.

Art serves its own purpose. It exists. It makes us think. If I drew a line today and called it art, someone, someday would think about it.

Is photography art? Yes, it is.

Even perhaps those over photoshopped pieces that we scorn. Maybe someday an anthropologist will talk about our need for vividity, for starkness.

What about photojournalism then?

Do the millions of photographs we take have any relevance? I know after so many years in journalism that they rarely make a difference. Our generation suffers from a sensory overload.

But I tell those stories to fulfill my desire. It is a purely selfish creation, as art often is. The need to purge something. Once it is done, you feel calmer, think clearer. Sometimes, once it is purged, it is also banished from your frame of thought. Perhaps that is why many photographers do not revisit their work.

I don’t think I’ll make a difference. That naive, idealistic girl is far gone, just a few months after journalism school. The photo essay I upload today and is shared a 100 times will be eclipsed tomorrow by a story about Aishwarya Rai’s dress at Cannes.

But maybe we are all closet optimists and we hope that somewhere, someone looks at that piece of art and starts a ripple of their own, their own story.

What else is there to do here but to tell those stories and make a tapestry and be smug bastards? Or depressed bastards. Perhaps it is just an attempt to subdue the futility of it all and a desperate attempt to leave a mark on the seashore.

See? So many answers. It all boils down to just this ‘because I want to take that photograph.’

Link of the Day: Steve McCurry’s Kabul

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