If a picture is worth a thousand words, could photographs create a language of their own?
Photographic images are everywhere: photo albums at home, in our laptops and mobilephones; photos in newspapers and magazines and on websites; advertisements, posters and display material in stores, on the streets and elsewhere. They are on television and on the internet. They are in our text books, and on our social media profiles, passports, driver’s license and other documents that prove our identity.
A photograph is essentially a record of a (past) moment in reality, and is often stored for its ‘documentation’ and ‘recollection’ value. It also has value as evidence to prove authenticity, validity, genuineness, legitimacy, and remove ambiguity and doubt. It’s a representation of life, a thing, a thought, a place, a face, an idea, a happening or an event. I guess you get the picture!
Whether we look at a photograph as a mere objective record, or subjectively from a photographer’s point of view, we can’t deny the fact that a photograph carries meaning. It lends credibility to our memories. It speaks to us – often in a personal manner – and contributes significantly to our feelings, and to our perceptions of people, objects and the world around us.
Photographs are an essential part of our culture and they fascinate us. Many of us have produced – or continue to produce – photos of our own with our own cameras. These days, our smartphones with cameras make this act of photographing something or someone a lot easier. Photographs taken at intervals in our lives can be pieced together to tell us an entire story of a person, a place or an object – giving visual meaning to the words we read.
But, what about the actual act of photography? Why do we take photos? Why do we look at photos? Why do we share and discuss photographs or the photographers who have taken those photos? Why do we nurture our love for photos and photography in our minds and our hearts? Is it to fill in the missing pieces in our lives; to relive the joys, ecstasies, hurts, humour, happiness, anger, sadness… the feelings and sentiments of the original experience?
I don’t have answers to these questions. But, I believe there are personal, emotional, social, cultural and historical values to photographic images. We even attach these values to the photographs to make personal connections. So that every picture’s worth becomes a thousand words.