Why We Photograph

Angkor Wat, Cambodia | Daniel Kestenholz
Angkor Wat, Cambodia | Daniel Kestenholz
Instead of boring you and imposing my unimportant self’s thoughts onto anyone, it’s sometimes more comprehensive to collect what others think about a particular subject. Instead of pretending to have an articulate opinion about everything, here some random thoughts compiled from the Web on the topic of “Why We Photograph.” It’s an interesting topic because not two people with the exactly same camera in the exactly same room take the exactly same picture. Photography is as individual as a person’s character. That is a key answer to the question posed. Much of photography is about individuality connecting us with others.

So why we photograph? Nah, don’t mention gear lust. For some it’s just a job. For others it’s a practice that teaches how to be. Some are shooting because they can’t take people to the location and say, “Look!” For most of us it’s about capturing life; a feeble attempt to stop time. With memories recorded a sense of time disappears… See? I already talk too much. Let’s hear what others think about the matter with focus on photography and a bit of philosophy and psychology:

At our best and most fortunate we make pictures because of what stands in front of the camera, to honor what is greater and more interesting than we are. (Robert Adams)

Taking pictures encourages us to observe with greater intensity and rewards us for doing so. Photography gets you up close and personal with the subjects you choose. This can promote a sense of intimacy and connectedness with both the act of taking the picture and in viewing it afterwards. (Steve Gottlieb)

Photography trancends time. It takes you to places you have never been. It makes the world a smaller place. When I am photographing a landscape, a person, a family or the stars in the sky my worries in life just fade away and I become one with my subject and my surroundings. It is a very real experience for me. I just love the photographic medium for expressing what I love about life nad the people and creatures on Earth. A planet we take too much for granted. (Michael Newman)

Photography is a way of meditation, a way of moving deeper into the heart of my being, of understanding myself and the world. It has changed my way of seeing everything around me. The gift has been given. It has changed my life. Brenda Tharp

We photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds. My stories are a way of shutting my eyes. (Franz Kafka)

When I looked at things for what they are I was fool enough to persist in my folly and found that each photograph was a mirror of my self. No matter how slow the film, spirit always stands still long enough for the photographer it has chosen. (Minor White)

Photographers who practice mindfulness sometimes say that simply holding a camera can induce this state of awareness. We might add that when we are mindfully aware of our surroundings, we are doing photography, even if we don’t have a camera with us. (John Suler)

We may shoot 100 photos and find one that we think is absolutely amazing. It’s that one photo that keeps us shooting. It’s that one photo that inspires us to try to do it again. (Jason Pryor)

Our time on this earth only lasts for so long, and a camera allows us to preserve memories far past when they might have slipped our mind. It helps us pass those memories into the hands of future generations. Our photos are little legacies of the life we have led – our travels, experiences, food, family, friends, work relationships and more. Each photo is a window into a moment, and the collections of images we take over the years are a window into who we were and what we valued. Ultimately it comes down to a simple truth – seeing that moment captured makes us genuinely happy. Photography should make you happy. (Matt Dutile)

We create amazing photographic prints because 20 years from now, that’s all you’ll have. The moments might have faded but they were preserved. You’ll look back at your gorgeous prints to remember how young your family was, how incredible your first kiss as husband and wife felt, and how proud you were when your first-born first tasted cake. We love what we do because we know how important it is. (Blair Phillips)

At the end of the day, I photograph because I want to. (Ming Thein)

And related:

Why did you climb Mount Everest? — Because it is there. (George Mallory)

What about you and photography?



  • streetshooter

    Making photographs is like breathing for me. I photograph because I have too.

  • dierk

    If I could paint, I would paint the images, that I have in mind.

    To get these images out of my mind, I have to wait and look, till I find the right motif and light for making the photograph.

    • Andy Umbo

      I agree with this…if I could paint, I wouldn’t have anything to do with photography, as a famous photographer said one time: “It’s a lazy mans art.” Too many people photographing today because they have some sort of ADHD, it’s relentless shutter-bugging, from what they ate today to who they saw on the street. The internet has given every mad man an outlet, when magazine editors and gallery owners used to save us from this…

  • MarcoSartoriPhoto

    Evrey aspect of reality is in front of us, everyday. I look at things from different perspectives, through a lens.
    I compose an image that can tell a story, even different from reality, and each time it happens, it’s like everything went into its right place for me.
    And I feel good.