“Photographs bear witness to a human choice being exercised in a given situation. A photograph is a result of the photographer’s decision that it is worth recording that this particular event or this particular object has been seen. If everything that existed were continually being photographed, every photograph would become meaningless. A photograph celebrates neither the event itself nor the faculty of sight in itself. A photograph is already a message about the event it records. The urgency of this message is not entirely dependent on the urgency of the event, but neither can it be entirely independent from it. At its simplest, the message, decoded, means I have decided that seeing this is worth recording.” From “Understanding a Photograph” by John Berger (2013).
I wonder if John Berger could have envisioned that someday we would all have cameras at our disposal, day and night, snapping away to capture whatever trivial moments we render “worth recording,” so long as our phone batteries had a charge. Would this constant capturing render our photographs meaningless?
Take yesterday, for example.
I walked a few blocks to the Terrace Restaurant. Saturday brunch, just like any other. The sun was shining through the restaurant’s street-side patio just so, which inspired me to reach into my purse for my iPhone. I just had to capture the way light reflected on the potted plant next to our table (it was real . . . I touched the leaves to verify).
Berger, John. (2013). Understanding a photograph. New York, NY: Aperture.
Sedaris, David. (2013). Let’s explore diabetes with owls: Essays, etc. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.