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Why do we photograph things?

5 March 2011

Welcome to my third and last post about Natasha Lester’s novel What is Left Over, After! (You can read the previous post here.) Towards the end of the book, the main character is recollecting a moment in her past where she tells someone she has just met, “Kafka said we photograph things to drive them out of our minds.” It’s an interesting line to use on someone you barely know. But I happen to believe the exact opposite is true.

When I photograph something or someone, it’s to keep them in my mind. I want to consider them, ponder them, lap them up—so I photograph them. Maybe that’s why I don’t have photographs of ugly things, or things I dislike. But I think many people who photograph do so for the same reason.

I like the idea behind photographing as a means of driving something away. Once the photograph is taken, you can forget that the thing exists and be done with it. Its record is there on the photograph, so you don’t have to worry about committing it to your own memory. Its there on film if you need it.

The Amish believe that a photograph sucks away your soul. If you follow that theory, photographing something can definitely drive it out of your mind. If you photograph it enough times, it could be said that it doesn’t exist anymore—or at least, its soul, the core of its being, wouldn’t.

But anyway, I think photographing is a way of connecting with things or images, or people, that appeal to me or interest me in some way.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 5 March 2011 20:28

    A fascinating post. Got me thinking too! I started photographing because I wanted to record the trains that I saw as a young rail enthusiast. But it’s certainly grown over the years to encompass anything that catches my eye. So while some images are a concious collection of objects and places for historic purposes – others are a deliberate attempt at something artful. I sometimes feel, looking back at old slides that the photos of those long since scrapped locomotives actually imbued them with a soul 🙂

  2. 5 March 2011 20:53

    What a great concept, that rather than sucking out their soul, taking photographs of things actually imbue them with a soul so that long after the thing itself perishes, the photograph is still there giving it a lasting existence. Love it!

  3. 6 March 2011 19:09

    While taking part in the Weekly Photo challenge I came across this blog that I think you will find interesting –


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