Why not photograph?

You must fill a blank space for your visa request form or your driver’s license; you make a photograph. You want to keep a souvenir of the Rolling Stones’s concert, something to show your friends you were really there; you photograph. Someone bumps into your car; you photograph the dented parts so you can send it to the insurance company. You want to sell you camera, you take another camera and take pictures of it to put it on e-Bay.

You work for a newspaper; you have to photograph an executive whose profile is being published in tomorrow’s economy issue, a protest against the use of stem cells in medical research, Christmas trees, the weather – over and over and over again. You go to war to photograph.

You want to make beautiful objects or to share your impressions about the places you’re visiting on vacations, you take pictures (even if they look just like those postcards you can find anywhere, but with you in them). You photograph to remember (whatever you want).

Susan Sontag said that photography has become “a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power”. “Using the camera appeases the anxiety which the work-driven feel about not working when they are on vacations and supposed to be having fun”, she said about tourism (although photographing can sometime be fun too). “Through photographs, every family constructs a portrait-chronicle of itself.” These quotes are from her 1977 seminal collection of essays, On Photography. Nowadays, it has been argued, digital photography has created new forms of anxiety: we do not photograph just for the sake of the family album anymore (it has become too big – nobody expects one to flip through 500 photographs of your son’s first birthday); we do it as a way of enhancing our very experience of an event by living it through the camera’s LCD. That’s as “live” as it can get.

You make photographs because you have to; you make photographs to pass the time; you make photographs to show things, to furnish evidence, to experience, to tell, to argue, to learn, to keep, to make a point, to protest, critique, advertise, shock, entertain. You want to communicate an idea or a feeling. You’re bored. You can write, paint, make sculptures, make a phone call, scream, screen, dance, silence. Still, you can also make photographs.

I like reading books, but not all of them. I also like writing, but I hate filling out forms. I never painted anything but my own walls, but I like paintings (not all of them, though). I also like some photographs and I happen to know how to make them with equipment produced to do so. Nevertheless, I’m not excited about photographing my dented car. I like taking photographs of what I like taking photographs of, but I guess that says more about what I like than about what I photograph.

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