The real value of photography

Another week into 2021 and another week into this national lockdown, and yes, I won’t lie, so far it has been a pretty tough one.

With home schooling and home working, combined with everything else and a few personal matters, it’s hard not to get down and feel like the world owes you a break, even for just a minute.  We’re getting by, but with the lack of any photography work going on right now, sometimes it all feels a little aimless.

Last night, I went out for one of my daily “government sanctioned” walks for some fresh air, I took a camera with me and ended up photographing random things around the neighbourhood – road signs, lights, empty streets – just so I’d have something to edit when I got back.

The photos I ending up taking, were ultimately worthless – a pointless document of an empty, dark suburban street in January.  I went out with the intention of doing something constructive and creative, and ultimately came back feeling a bit deflated.

And then I received a message that put things into perspective.

Seven years ago, I photographed a wedding and earlier this week I received a message from the bride, asking if I had any photos of her Nan, who had sadly passed away.  After a dig around in the archives, I found the gallery of her wedding and sent her the link.

And then last night, after I got back from my walk, I received the following message.

“Thank you for these.  There are so many amazing memories of her here.  I’ve been sitting here in floods of happy tears remembering who she was, before she lost her battle with Alzheimer’s…”

For a brief moment, it left me feeling a little staggered – over the last few years, I had become so focussed on the technical aspects of photography and running a business, I had forgotten the principal reason of why it was so important to me in the first place.

Photography is all about capturing a moment, to document it.  It’s not about what gear it was captured on or the lighting set up that was used.

And sure, while light, focus, composition and exposure are all very important elements to getting a great shot, they are all utterly worthless unless the subject within the image, has some personal value to somebody.  Whether that is the photographer, the subject or a third party is irrelevant.  That image has to have a value to somebody; that is all that matters.

In these trying times of Covid and the endless lockdowns, as photographers, it is quite easy to forget that.

So, while we may use these times to finesse our skills and go out for pointless walks, lets not forget the fundamentals that ultimately drive us to do what it is, that we do.