Monday, July 27, 2015

Photography, Love, and Selfies

Reading the title, you might feel confused. The only connection you see is between 'photography' and 'selfies', right? Well, in actual fact, these two could not possible be further away from each other. Selfies have nothing to do with photography - and they have nothing to do with love, either, but we'll get to that in a moment.

The inspiration for today's article came after I read the news about Yellowstone Park advising against selfies. In case you missed it, the reason was that there were people so profoundly stupid and self-centered, that they wanted to take a selfie with bison right behind them - one tourist was attacked. We've read similar stories elsewhere - about even more stupid people, who take selfies while driving.

But the article title talks about Love, too. So, ♫ ♬ what's love got to do with it? ♫ ♬
It's simple.
Love is what brings life and meaning to Photography. Love being absent from selfies, they are pointless.

If you've already read my book Photography and Affect: A New Theory of Vision, you might remember the part where I talk about the great misunderstanding of photography: When you take (or rather make) a photo, your aim should not be to take photos of what you see but of what you feel.


You see, we can talk all day about saturation, tonality, noise, sharpness, but without composition you have nothing. And without feelings, emotions, thoughts and reflection, you cannot have authentic, meaningful composition. In a sense, photography is love.

Don't be confused by the word 'Love'. Try to think outside of the box (you can't make great photos if you can't do that anyway). The first photo I showed you above, of the newlyweds, was just an easy example to catch your attention. Here's another photograph that exemplifies how Love allows us to create Photography:

Taking a photo like this requires love: for nature, for the kind people who showed you this, for life itself that allowed you to be there in that particular place, at that particular time
There are no people in this photo. So, to quote Tina again, ♬ what's love ♬ got to do with it? Without love, this photo could not exist. Being there, I loved nature and felt sublime awe for what I was seeing; I loved the people who drove for 8 hours (offering great company along the way) so that I could see this; I loved life itself, for being lucky enough to be there at that particular time. And, I allowed those feelings to be expressed through the lens.

So, what about selfies?
Selfies lack love.
Selfies - like the name itself reveals - have nothing to do with anyone else but ME, ME, ME. For those people, being in a place as magnificently beautiful as Yellowstone Park means nothing. The only thing that matters is to show and brag to their "friends" (=people on social media that mean nothing to them) that they had been in a "status-increasing" place. You know, "I'm so important I've been to Yellowstone, you haven't because you are less important"

Some of you might protest. You might say "Hey, hang on, why is it wrong to have a picture of me and my friend/significant other at Yellowstone, or Rome, or Athens, or wherever? I wanna have a memory of it."

Well, let me tell you this: If you need a picture to remind you that you were in some place with someone, it means you weren't actually there - not with your heart, anyway. Take pictures of the people you travel with; ask them to take a picture of you; heck, why not asking some other tourist to take a group photo of you and your friend/spouse. But taking photos in front of every single monument in a city is utterly meaningless. If you show me one, a single photo of you and your wife in front of the Eiffel Tower, yeah, I might have a hunch you have been in Paris.

There is no better way to remember a trip than to photograph experiences and feelings. Let's face it, compared to two youngsters kissing, with the Acropolis in the background, your own face isn't that memorable.
If you want to cherish memorable experiences - and this is what you should be aiming for - first of all have the experiences. Enjoy being there, with the people that matter to you. Take photos of the place, take photos of the people, take photos of feelings. You see yourself every day in the mirror, why on earth would you wanna see yourself in every photo of your trip?

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