The meaning of photography

01 Feb 2019

A hard question for some. Photography today quickly turns into showing pictures on social media and reaping “Likes”, “+1”s or thumbs ups. Once the hype for the picture is over it is mostly gone and forgotten. In many cases it will even be deleted from memory card or phone, never to be seen again. Facebook has the “n years ago…” memory feature, bringing back those pictures after some time, we are surprised we even took that picture, let alone posted it on social media.

Kiev, Ukraine

Social media has become the collective memory of modern man. Without it, man will forget quickly and move on to the next dose of “Likes” to feed his energy.

This energy or perceived energy, however, has very little nutrients for the soul. We have forgotten what it means to remember an event, a situation or a feeling that came with it. A picture could have brought back those memories and those feelings, but often it has gone to pixel heaven instead. Only special circumstances can then bring back the memory.

Leeuwarden, Holland

Leeuwarden, Holland

A while back, a friend of mine posted this question on Facebook. She wanted to know what photography meant for everyone. Many answered that it was for the pleasure of taking the picture, or creating memories for later. The latter was my answer as well, although very incomplete. Creating memories is what you do at the time, not taking the pictures themselves. Those are only the result of a pressing finger. When I go through my own image library, by now nearly 100k pictures, I sometimes come across pictures I have completely forgotten about. Situations that evoke feelings of joy or sorrow.

Dnepr or Dnipro, Kiev, Ukraine

Dnepr or Dnipro, Kiev, Ukraine

Pictures of my parents, now gone for just over three years already. Pictures of Christmases and Easter mornings, all memories that are not in the forefront of my brain. Those memories come back in an instant and bring me back to the moment.

My library contains pictures of all kinds. I try to take technically good pictures (they are never perfect) of wildlife, all the not-so-perfect pictures go straight into the recycle bin, never to see the light of day again. My family pictures, however, are a different story. They show blurry photos of family blowing out candles, skating on ice or even praying in the near dark of a church. Those pictures will not be deleted, they represent memories of a very different nature. Memories that will be treasured for a long time to come.

Dubinka, Ukraine

Dubinka, Ukraine

Of course I will also take pictures with a specific goal in mind. Many of them are taken for social media, just to make sure I get some “exposure”. Admitting it is already halfway pardoned, right? We all take pictures in order to get that feeling of instant gratification. Instagram could have been renamed to Instagrat, as far as I’m concerned. Yet, those pictures are the ones that move me the least. Pictures of family, pictures of long gone vacations, those are the ones that move me. Those are the pictures that have meaning to me.

Kiev, Ukraine

Kiev, Ukraine

Indeed it’s nice to get a picture of that rare animal that never shows up where you are, but is that really the meaning of your photography? Not for me, although your mileage may vary. In a way I could separate my photography into different categories. Personal, Nature+Wildlife and Social Media. Sometimes the categories overlap but not often.

Noordoostpolder, Holland

Noordoostpolder, Holland

You may have noticed that on this blog there are not many posts of that Personal category. That is on purpose. As another friend of mine likes to claim: “I am not the one you see online.”.  If you want to know me, come have a coffee for some time! People that know me personally will say that I do not resemble the one portrayed online. I may hope they are right Smile.

Fochteloer veem, Holland

Fochteloer veem, Holland

It is the same for my photography, some things are not to go online or “out there”, other things can be there without harm or second thought. It is a very personal subject, with many nooks and crannies that nobody really knows about but me. In a way it is indeed to preserve my memory for later. In today’s world with chemicals dissimulated in our food without us knowing about it, it is fairly well possible that some kind of memory erasing substance is building up in my body. Just to surprise me later. Everyone will blame it on “old age” but I will know better. If I can remember it.

Cipiere, Southern France

Cipiere, Southern France

So is my photography for my children and grand children? No, they will have their own memories. Memories of their own feelings and perhaps of me. When I go through the photographs of my grand parents, I hardly recognise anyone, let alone know what was going on at the time the picture was taken. And that is the real meaning of photography. At least for me. The pictures on this post have special meaning to me and probably to me only. Everyone else can just enjoy the pictures without the feelings that come with them for me. The last picture was taken by an old friend of mine…

Until next time…