What is Photography

"Photography takes an instant out of time,
altering life by holding it still"
— Dorothea Lange

Instant Impulse

"Photography is an immediate reaction and, for me, a spontaneous impulse which captures the moment and its eternity"
— Hentri Cartier-Bresson


By the way, David Hurn was so deeply touched (burst into tears) and inspired by this particular photograph by Bresson, that he bought a Kodak folding Retina camera, resigned from the army and became a photographer.

"My earliest memory is my dad coming home from the army and taking my mum with me in tow to Howell's department store in Cardiff, where he bought her a hat.

So my first recollection of mum and dad in love, and demonstrating that love, is her trying on various hats. When I saw this picture it brought all that back to me."

Memories Evocation

"What I recognised instantly then was the extraordinary ability of photography to evoke memory and boy, how powerfully it could do that."
— David Hurn

"And I suddenly disbelieved the propaganda about Russia. I looked at the picture and was totally convinced that Russian people were just normal people like the rest of us.

It was so significant. I remember saying to myself 'This is what I'd really love to do, go round shooting pictures of army officers buying their wives hats and getting other people to cry'".


Drawing with Light

"Photography is nothing more than instant drawing for me"
— Hentri Cartier-Bresson

The word "photograph" literally translated from its Greek origins means "drawing with light". Nothing is so essential to photography as Light, without which it simply won't exist. The fascination of catching the Light and giving it a material Form remains actual since 19th century pioneers until contemporary artist.


Photography is a Visual Language

And like with any language we have to learn it to use it properly.
Imagine how kids start learning an alphabet, then to use words, then combine those into sentences. Spell and write, again and again, and hopefully at some point they would be able to create a Poem.

Exactly same is with photography: if we study it constantly we could learn how to express our thoughts in a more structured way.

“With photography a new language has been created”
– Ernst Haas


Photography is a form of a non-verbal Communication

Photography is a way of self-expression with intend to convey thoughts and Life statements to the viewer as the photographer feels those.

"Don't shoot what it looks like.
Shoot what it feels like."
— David Alan Harvey


The Photograph has to communicate and if there was nothing to be said it won't have any meaning. From this perspective, photography is extremely close to the music, painting and especially to the writing.

An Author's presence is fairly important

If the photograph is meaningless to a photographer, why would it be meaningful to a viewer? An Author's presence is fairly important.

Mozart was not creating his 40th Symphony to be beautiful (it would be even hardly suitable for dancing). He conveyed emotions, fullfiled it with a lot of movement and narrative, he composed it with rhythms and phrases, with accents and pauses with enough space for multiple interpretations.[1]

Cultural theorists simultaneously fret that photography's ubiquity in contemporary visual culture has debased its force as an art form or as a mode of self-expression.[2]

A photograph is the illusion of a literal description

“A photograph is the illusion of a literal description of how the camera ‘saw’ a piece of time and space."
— Garry Winogrand


Any language is restrictive, embrace them all

“There’s the idea of the possibility of photography being an anti-language,” says Hura, “but an anti-language is just another language. The question is how to get rid of all the languages. I think the best way to do that is to embrace them all, break down the hierarchy.”
— Sohrab Hura


P.S. I've picked Logogram[3] from the Denis's Villeneuve Arrival movie (ref. Imdb) because the story teaches that Communication is key to thrive not only in a nation but as a larger community across the World.

  1. Although the most common perception today is that the symphony is tragic in tone and intensely emotional, Charles Rosen called it "a work of passion, violence, and grief". ↩︎

  2. "Photographers Scetchbooks" by Stephen McLaren and Bryyan Formhals ↩︎

  3. Logogram © Martine Bertrand - MOTION PICTURES ARRIVAL INK ON PAPER ↩︎

What is Photography
Share this