Why take pics, continued...

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by matt_borengasser, Nov 2, 2004.

  1. This is a long reply to John Andrew??s question ??Why take photographs???
    It includes a bit of writing that I did about 2 years ago, so it??s a
    bit of a long read. But this is the philosophy forum, so??I hope
    there??s not any complaint about reading. But it is philosophy of

    You know those 4 noble truths that the Buddha set out?...1)life is
    suffering 2) suffering is caused by desire 3) end desire by ending
    suffering 4) end suffering by following the 8 fold path. Well, if
    you think much about this, it's a paradox. The minute you want to end
    suffering by ending desire, you've started to desire again??the desire
    to end the suffering. So a lot of people say Buddhism is a crock,
    just as there was some criticism for John Andrew's posting this
    "question with no answer". Now,however, religious philosophers such
    as the late Alan Watts tell us that the original Buddha intended to
    "wake us up" by getting us to reflect, and that his 4 normal truths
    were meant to ??start a dialogue??. So in such a way, it is very
    important and I think healthy to ask pointless questions if they end
    with a realization of some sort. And you don't know if they're going
    to lead to a realization unless you ask them.

    At the same time, I'm feeling a bit like a self-contradiction, because
    I thought the post seemed a bit like it was asking a question that was
    a bit pointless. It reminded me of a recording by Watts (who you'll
    all have to forgive me for quoting so often, but maybe it needs to be
    this way) who said, "If you hear your own ear, you have ringing of the
    ear. If you see your own eye, you have cataracts. If you think about
    thinking then..." But then Watts did nothing but think, so??

    So. Anyway, I would suggest the "answerless questions" don't end.


    As for me...:) Well??here is something I wrote about two years ago,
    and I think that it sums up my general anxiety in life which causes me
    to take photos. It says a lot about things that I do that I could
    just as well not do it seems, and yet I can??t ??not do them"?? including
    photography. Here it goes:

    Now, you can only look back and wonder what those days were like.
    They are so far in the past that it seems they are a part of some
    former life time. Not even a recent lifetime. One several cycles
    back. Since then things have changed. You can't even remember what
    you were like then. You can't remember what you knew and didn't know.
    The knowledge you have since gained, necessarily erased the ignorance
    of yesterday. And the ignorance of today, keeps you from knowing what
    the things you knew before.
    Yesterday??s naivety has been replaced with experience, but not
    necessarily wisdom. You think back wondering if you even need to know
    what you know today. Was that what you were searching for? Were you
    searching for knowledge or experience? Either of these? Or one but
    not the other? Or neither? It doesn't matter. You have them, and so
    you are changed. You try to look back, but you can't see anything
    clearly. Scenes are confusingly vague. Feelings for people you once
    knew are forgotten. Or you have since learned that they are not the
    people you thought they were. Who are they? Who are you?
    Sometimes you tell yourself that it doesn't matter who you were. You
    are evolving and that is what life is about. You are meant to shed
    yourself again and again, replacing yourself with a new one. Aren't
    most people quite pleased when they learn something new? But you're
    not. You don't want to learn anything new. You still can't figure
    out why your life had to evolve past age six when you were still small
    enough that your father held you in his arms and called you names that
    you don't dare let slip past your lips. You are reminded now of that
    taxi driver who suggested that Mao Zi Dong should have retired in 1950
    after liberating the country. Now you feel you should have retired
    from life after learning to spell your last name. Isn't that all that
    matters? Finding out who you are? Isn't everything else just an
    excuse to go on living because you are afraid to die? You feel amused
    now. So it isn't that bad and you're glad you??re alive because you
    enjoyed the conversation with that taxi driver. You enjoyed it so
    much that you've been waiting for it to happen again. That is all you
    wait for. You wait for those little pleasures to happen again.
    But your still looking back as well, aren't you. Your life is like a
    notebook. You are constantly taking notes and when you don't have
    time to take down the little events of the day as they happen you
    write them down at night. It was the same when you were younger and
    wrote down the more significant dreams on waking in the morning. The
    ones that you can still remember today and you know it is only because
    you wrote them down that you can remember them. You are dead set on
    not forgetting these most precious moments. Yet they are fading, and
    it is less and less clear what they really meant.
    It is less clear what they really meant, and because of this it is
    less clear what your life means. If you pass from day to day and you
    can not recall the most important events--the events that shaped your
    life, then what does your life mean? Or are you just filling in the
    time since you learned to spell your last name? No. You??re not. You
    are determined not to do that. So you spend most of your days and
    nights remembering. You are nearing midlife and you know that the
    next half will be spent trying to figure out what the first half was
    all for. So you spend the good parts of your days remembering. And
    it's getting harder to remember??

    I think that sums up why this weekend I'm going to go out with my camera.
  2. Why did I take photographs 10 years ago? Why do I take photographs today. Am I the same person taking the photographs that I was 10 years ago? Sometimes I think ....what in the world was I thinking! So yes...the answerless questions open up a "dialog" or actually allow us to think a bit "out of the box". All and all I think it is probably good for our creative part of the brain.


  3. In my student days while travelling thru Europe, I happened to be travelling on a train thru Greece with another fellow student traveller I had just met. As the train passed over the Corfu Channel Bridge, I instinctively grabbed my camera to take a photo. That instant I peered thru the viewfinder, I knew that any shot I took would be akin to a bad postcard at best. I snapped anyway and as I turned back to my seat, she, my fellow travel mate flashed me a look that said all too clearly, "why?".

    Since then, I've taken thousands of photos but have yet to come out with a satisfactory answer to that question. All I know is that its a compulsion. I guess its the same compulsion that drives us to do the other trival things in life, as matt has alluded to.
  4. "Since then, I've taken thousands of photos but have yet to come out with a satisfactory answer to that question. All I know is that its a compulsion."

    You do it, if I may, for good reason. To have proof to show others that you were there. It's a personal photojournalistic affirmation record of your trip which you can share with others when you get home. The images become a form of converting your experience into a souvenir. And there's also the offshoot possibility that you're a work-a-holic and you need something to do besides sit around and let the day go by unproductive:) All of these reasons are good things.

    Photographing as a record is more then just the act of tripping the shutter as it allows you to cronicle extended family life and sadly after a while is all that remains of it.

    If I'm off base in my thinking my apologies. Hopefully my comments have given you some insight to your comment. Enjoy the image taking process but be sure to on occation leave the camera at home for day trips and focus on the ones your with, otherwise they end up missing the benefit of your company:)

Share This Page