No Two Photographs are Ever the Same


Back in 2014, it was reported that an average of 1.8 billion digital images were uploaded every single day. That’s 657 billion photographs per year. This is not accounting for the pictures that never surface on any digital platform. It’s been seven years since. Can you imagine what the numbers could be today?

Cameras are getting smaller, so small that one can now purchase them in the form of eyewear; they are called smart glasses. Imagine a world where we won’t have to look at a screen or hold the camera to our eye to make a picture. With each passing year, photography is becoming even more personal and instant, an appealing prospect to even those amongst us who may not be creatively inclined. We also have AI technology that can create realistic pictures based on inputed words. Will it usurp the role of a photographer? Highly unlikely. Here’s why…

Photographs have always stood as proofs of our presence, and it is upon this idea that various digital platforms continue to build their ecosystems around. It is not just about staying connected but also corroborating that connection with visual evidence. Was a vacation even taken if there aren’t photographs to show for it? Is a school reunion complete without pictures with your friends? Were you even at a protest if you didn’t have photographs of people holding placards or chanting slogans? It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are or the motive behind your pictures. You could be someone who enjoys chronicling their daily life or a photojournalist documenting a place ravaged by conflict, one way or the other, our photographs establish our participation at any given moment. This is crucial to the process of picture-making and one that no software can ever replicate.

Today, anyone can make a picture with a tap of a button. The proliferation of camera technology has ensured this. It means that there is an incredibly large volume of photographs being produced. And it also points to the fact that there is nothing in this world that hasn’t been photographed already. We are all unavoidably creating photographs of the same thing. This has, however, not deterred us from making pictures. There’s an underlying compulsion that Conchita Fernandes Senior Features Editor Email: conchita.fernandes@ No Two Photographs are Ever the Same surrounds the act of photographing. We do it either because we have something to say or as mentioned previously, to establish our involvement in any given moment. Pictures of sunsets or of the view outside the airplane window, they’ve all become clichés and for a reason. But there is also a certain comfort in knowing that we are all perhaps not so different from one another, that to a certain extent there is an alignment in our perspectives, which is why we photograph the same subjects.

I began documenting my mental health, early last year. All the photographs that I’ve made so far have emerged from photographing in a single space—the living room of my apartment. It is a small, humble space occupied by the necessities of a person living in it. The walls are in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint. Dust and cobwebs have taken up permanent residence in various corners of the room. There isn’t a single, clean, expansive wall where I can set up the camera and photograph. So, I photograph in sections of the room that are relatively uncluttered. My favourite prop to use is a slab of mirror that I place in various corners of the room.

After a year or so, I realised that I was more or less making the same kind of photographs… The mirror was always placed by the window or perched against books or placed precariously on the floor. But it soon occurred to me that there may be something worthwhile in repetition. “Isn’t life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?” Any Warhol had said. Repetition is the breeding ground for change because it creates room for new thoughts and realisations. It is a marker of progress even if we don’t see it immediately. Even if two photographs, shot at different points in time, are intrinsically similar in their motives and are of the same subject, the external factors contributing to that moment are never the same. How we feel and interact with our surroundings, at any given point, is never the same. But what binds them together is that they’re all components of a large repository, in my case, the narrative of my mental health journey. Our constantly evolving personal experiences shape how we see. Perhaps it is this knowledge, even if it is subconscious, that fuels our need to photograph… To express the inexplicable.

This article originally appeared in the December 2022 issue of Better Photography.