A Picture: Worth a Thousand Words?
(If you don’t want to read it all, maybe read til you get bored and then just read the last paragraph? ❤ Cheers, Roslyn.)
So clearly I’m not doing these posts with any degree of regularity, but while I’m still receiving the daily emails, I AM still considering every topic. But considering that my main hobby (after baseball) is photography, this one particularly spoke to me and I felt compelled to respond.
My short answer to whether a picture can truly capture a moment or a person in that moment? Yes.
But let me start with an anecdote in order to explain why I think that. My junior and senior years of high school, I didn’t do anything but take pictures. I photographed every event in the lives of my family and friends. I have 35 facebook albums from my senior year ALONE. (Granted that’s from back when you were limited to 60 pictures per album so there are a few part 2 and 3s counted in there, but you get my drift. It was a loooooot of pictures.) I can now look back and I feel like I remember that year day by day. I will forever even remember my classes and teachers because they’re in there along with the more fun adventures. But it’s so well detailed that I feel like I’m watching a movie. I can be that girl again (even though I’m rarely in the pictures because I took them, I can still live in the moment.), the one who was carefree and didn’t have to worry about stupid college stresses.
Going through a photo album when you were involved in the event is a little like stepping in the past, but what if you weren’t involved? To me it depends very much on the quality of the photo. How much does it capture the background? What is the lens’s main focus? What are the quirks in the picture that AREN’T the main focus? The more I get a feel of the scene, the more I feel like I can understand a picture.
And the most important question: how natural was the picture? If I have to say “Smile” or “Say cheese,” there’s a part of me that feels phony. Now obviously if you’re doing a pre-prom photo shoot or trying to get the best Christmas card to send to relatives, the posed smiles make sense. But those posed pictures can’t capture much of the real feel of the moment. Sure. everyone looks SOOO happy, which may have been the true feel of the moment, but if it was so honestly the real feel of the night, why did it have to be posed? (Trust me, I LOVE photo shoots. The other day some friends from school came to visit me and I took them around Princeton and made them pose a million times. By the end, I told them to do whatever felt right to do and snapped pictures of them dancing and playing on statues and stuff like that…and they came out way better than anything more staged. But maybe that’s just my opinion. The point, though, is that I do have a tendency to do this, don’t think I’m trying to be above it.)
Un-posed pictures have a certain beauty to them even if they’re not as “perfect” as posed pictures. You can often hear a laugh if it’s caught at the right time. You can feel the rain tingling on you when someone’s drenched. You can capture a woman’s incomparable joy, but also ridiculous exhaustion after she’s given birth (conveniently enough, though, none of the icky blood or goop can fly out of the picture!). And this is a wonderful thing. Memories will fade, but pictures will be the only thing remaining to trigger them back into being.
Can a picture capture truth? Sometimes I look back at pictures and they’re more real than my memories. Having been stuck behind the camera for the moment, my eyes focused on the photo more than the reality. Am I alone in this? I know it’s sort of off topic, but this is kinda where the topic took my brain. I photographed some fireworks recently and realized that after the fact I hadn’t seen much of the lightshow because I’d spent too much time staring at the horizon and working on timing. I suppose it’s sad, but in the end those captured moments will live on as memories longer than they would have if I’d actually watched. Therefore, no regrets.