Photography as Social Movement


To many, photography is a profession. It is a means to make a living. To others, it is a quest for the perfect image, and the craft of practicing technique. To yet others, it is the thrill of a process which ends, or sometimes begins, with the release of the shutter. It can be a way to simply collect a lot of moments or preserve a few precious memories. It can be a mode of catharsis, or a mechanism to meditate, or a method to unwind. It can also be a medium of sharing snatches and spaces from our lives, so that others may see and appreciate what we see, or perhaps, just so that we may feel good about ourselves. There are many excellent reasons to make pictures. But are they all good enough to call oneself a photographer, especially in a world where images are made by the millions everyday?

Capturing a poignant fraction of a second can be just as meaningful as a planned, carefully arranged image. Both can take effort in planning and a certain level of proficiency in execution. With technology improving daily, and with cameras, computers and software getting faster, more intelligent and less expensive, would expertise and split second timing be reasons enough to become known as a photographer?

Today, I believe that photography is about two very important things. The first is personal interpretation. Photography is just as much an inward journey as an outward one. Thought, introspection and exploration is more critical to image-making, now more than ever before, because it allows the photographer to see differently from the masses.

The second is producing social impact. It is no longer sufficient to simply share an image in the hope of eliciting a reaction from the audience at large. A photographer needs to ensure that an image benefits a group of people, or even a single individual. The benefit may be in terms of knowledge, a gratifying experience, an introduction to a new idea, or a new awakening to something that did not exist before, or even something more physical… perhaps the gift of a print. With all the billions of images floating in cyberspace, this is possibly the most important reason you or I can have, to call ourselves photographers.

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Better Photography.