Here’s to the snapshot (beware: long read!)

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by LaFoto, Jun 2, 2007.

  1. LaFoto

    LaFoto Just Corinna in real life Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Just some thoughts that I have had for the past couple of weeks and which I would like to put together in writing. They are about “The Moment in Time”, personal and global history, and the photo as one means to capture such moments for all times (or “a long time” at least).

    Given the fact that my father is working on a quite comprehensive presentation to be held in August of this year on 57 years of friendship between people of my hometown and people of a place in Northern-Ireland, I have been exposed to quite a bit of history, albeit only “small-scale history”. When he started to seriously work on his long-held idea of putting all the material collected by everyone involved in the visits to and fro into one presentation, he received lots and lots of photographs by other people of my home-town. Some have either been among a group of hosts or a group of interested citizens that went to travel to Northern-Ireland who only at a certain point in time were connected with the “twinning” or “partnership”, and some – like my family – have been involved in the activities ever since they first got in touch with them. This has been so for my family since 1960.

    Not only did my father receive just about all the photographs taken by my hometown’s citizens (he never asked the Irish so far, for this presentation is meant to be a surprise to them), but also travel journals, lists of participants, the visitors’ programmes, newspaper clippings from both the local papers of my home-town as well as those from the Northern-Irish place, provided someone got hold of them at the time and still had them stored away somewhere.

    Among the photos there are a good many snapshots. In other words: the majority of the photos that were taken by group participants in the 50s are only just that: snapshots. Someone brought a camera and simply snapped away.

    Since it is turning out that in the end my sister and I are working on the actual texts to speak – both in German and English – I got to look at all those photos and read all those 50-year-old travel journals, too. And I learned to appreciate the snapshot!

    For while many of the photos taken at the time by those who did take them were no where near being artistic (something that had never been the plan to begin with, I should say), they are still there, and that gives them some kind of importance. They may have been forgotten in someone’s albums for decades, and still: right now, and for us, they regain a meaning. Particularly those photos taken in 1960, when the very first group came over from Northern-Ireland (two German groups had gone there in 1952 and 1959), in which we detected the very young faces of people who are STILL connected with the “twinning” – and who will be among the group to arrive in August, i.e. among those to be surprised by this presentation.

    And this is how I came to feel that “a mere snapshot” still has a right of its own in photography, since it captures a moment in time which would otherwise have come and gone and be forgotten in the blink of an eye.

    This is not to say that I now embrace each and every snapshot with pleasure, for poor composition, poor lighting, poor exposure and a poor “eye” simply do not make good photos.

    And in those 10 years that my first-born son Kristian lived (between 1980 and 1990), I took an awful LOT of snapshots that today make me SHUDDER under their photographic aspect. But without those … a lot less would have been left for me these days of my first-born son. Just for example.

    When my father first “took me into the boat” and suggested I take up a major part in the making of that presentation, he e-mailed me his ideas and his first scanning results with his (at that time) brand-new scanner. For, of course, there are a good many photos taken by my dad himself that cover those visits to and fro (as of 1960, like I was saying earlier). And he set about to scan the negatives of his own photos and wanted to share some of that earliest work with me.

    That is how this photo came into my possession (digitalised as it now is, but I remember to have seen it as print when I was younger), and it is, in fact, just a snapshot, but has gained quite a bit of meaning (if only to the persons shown in this very photo) in the course of time:

    [​IMG]

    Who do you see?
    Well, there is my mother. And myself in the pram :)biggrin: ), and my sister, giving the photographer a very cool wave, and Jim, 19 at the time, 66 today and one to be among the group who are coming in August, and for whom we are working on this presentation.

    And another one that my dad mailed to me and that I find endearing, taken in the same year, when my dad and uncle also made a 7 minute colour film in N8 of the Northern-Irish group's arrival to my home-town, a film that they presented on the fairwell night of that group's stay, and which was quite well received and even got mentioned in the paper at the time, and this other snapshot I want to show you is of my uncle working on that film in his room:

    [​IMG]

    Knowing that my uncle is very, very sick these days, it is good to see that we all once were young in our lives, and eager, and passionate, and loving and laughing, crying ... all this.

    That's why even snapshots very much have their right of being, I think :D.


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    One afterthought: I put this into Photographic Discussions since I feel it is the place where this should be. But if you don't feel like you want to explicitly discuss anything with me on this, I am also happy to just share my thoughts.
    (And I will still try to take PHOTOS these days, not snapshots in the cliché meaning of the word ;)!!!).​
     
  2. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    At what point does a snapshot (or a photograph) stop being just an image and become a Historical document? ;)
     
  3. Don Simon

    Don Simon TPF Noob!

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    When you look at it and think "hmm, I don't remember that party". :lol:
     
  4. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    LaFoto, Thank you for sharing this. You make a great point in that in it's most basic reality a photograph is just that, a very accurate graph. An exact record if you prefer and one of the main reasons for all of the whiz bang toys that we have today. I say this because the vast majority of people who have bought a camera bought one as an aid for their memories and a legacy to their descendants. In my estimation having a well grounded sense of place and reminders of the love and happiness given and received throughout a lifetime is every bit as important in absolute/personal terms as any work of art.

    The messages given and received by great works of art and the enrichment they have brought are undeniable but the lives we lead are personal things. The weight of the thing swings to the many.

    There will be many whose treasure and egos are invested in their equipment and training. They will argue and will have a point but as no one has ever felt any better or worse than anyone else, whatever an individual decides is the best is just that for themselves.

    I guess you can tell that I am a populist. ;)

    Thanks again and if anyone would care to argue the point, I'd love to hear it.

    mike
     
  5. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    It is very important to remember that although a photograph is a record of an event, it is nothing more than that.
    Photographs in themselves contain very little information above the appearance of things. The emotions and memories that they can release are only those emotions and memories present in the viewer.
    This leads to various degrees of reaction in the viewer.
    If you were present at the event then the image will release those memories and emotions that you felt at the time.
    If the picture is of someone you know but were not present when the picture was taken then it will only release the memories and emotions you associate with the person.
    If the picture is of someone you have never met then the most you will feel is curiosity.
    A photograph can then be seen, in one respect, as an aid to memory.
    It is this aspect of the photograph that gives it an almost magical quality in our psyches.
    We frame pictures of our loved ones and put them on tables/hang them on walls to form a shrine. As long as we have their image the person will remain fresh in our minds and/or be kept safe from harm in some way.
    Because of this we have an aversion to destroying pictures of people we know. In fact the destruction can be strongly symbolic as in the ritual expunging of 'the other' from our photographs at the end of a relationship.
    It is therefore important to remember that most of the power of the photograph resides within ourselves and not in the object.
     
  6. mysteryscribe

    mysteryscribe TPF Noob!

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    To give a different view, the photograph can be the spark that lights the gunpowder, that fires the bullet that kills the tyrant. Or if you will the picture of the policeman in saigon that almost single handedly changed the course of the war.

    Okay had a lot to do with it. Showed America over their evening meal what it was like to die. The image was more powerful than the image. It started as a movie so maybe that was the real power but I think it was the image even still that made americans wonder what the hell was going on over there.

    Sound familier?
     
  7. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    One of the weightier ones certainly! The one of the mother and child running from the napalm is the one that stuck with me. But were either of them crafted with care with the light properly measured and reflected. The background set just so and the composition checked and rechecked?

    Both were shot by terrific photographers (forgive me for not remembering their names) I'm sure, but are snapshots still don't you think? Skill and training and practice show but Photo Journalism, I think, Has to fall into the snapshot category else it is untrue and nothing more than propaganda.

    mike
     
  8. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    But Photojournalism is propaganda. It can only ever tell one side of the story. The Photojournalist may well have integrity and honesty but he is still only giving his point of view. And then it is filtered through the media - and that is certainly biased.

    As for it's place in the scheme of things: it deserves it's own niche under 'photojournalism'. It may be akin to the snapshot but it is far more than that.
     
  9. JimmyJaceyMom

    JimmyJaceyMom TPF Noob!

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    I couldn't agree more!
     
  10. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    "But Photojournalism is propaganda. It can only ever tell one side of the story. The Photojournalist may well have integrity and honesty but he is still only giving his point of view. And then it is filtered through the media - and that is certainly biased" by Hertz van Rental

    This is true to the point that the PJ consciously presses the shutter button and the camera's point of view is that of the photographer. It is only when the PJ begins to editorialize through selective views (choosing the background) or instants in time (composition checked and rechecked) that it becomes propaganda.

    I do not mean to belittle Photo Journalism and may be painting with too broad a brush but am merely pointing out the similarities between snapshots and Photo Journalism.

    A case in point.. the young person taking snapshots of a tornado moving through his neighborhood. In the family album they are snapshots. If he sells them to the paper then they become Photo Journalism. :)

    mike
     
  11. LaFoto

    LaFoto Just Corinna in real life Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Is this a real question or a historical one?

    To me, the second of my two example photos is per part something like a historical document, not because my uncle now looks and is an old man in the grips of dementia, but because of all the things you can see in this photo, the way his room was decorated, the lamps he had, the furniture, the film previewer he used, the reels, all those things.

    In your opinion now, is it something like a historical document, or is is that just for me because the person is my uncle and that room later was MY room?
     
  12. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    As I have already said, how you react to it depends on how close you are to the subject. For you it's emotive but for me it's just a historical document. There is nothing wrong with either view as long as we remember that the image can be both at once.
     

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