The more I thought about what photographs are, the more complex and suggestive they became
Susan Sontag, On Photography (1977)
Photography, since its invention, has changed our lives in every way, what we know, how we represent ourselves, what we discover and document.
Photography affects science, history and culture; it is collection, evidence, research, history.
Photography has a direct and provocative impact on our lives, it impacts our culture, and it has changed what we do and who we are.
Erik Kessels. Installation of printing of all photos uploaded to Flickr in 24 hours
If we ask cultural professionals, public figures, professionals in science, history, literature or people who consume images daily to describe how photography shapes their experience in the world, each one will give a totally different vision, and we will get totally different answers, but everyone will agree that photography is a very powerful instrument of change.
Think for a moment and answer: how photography improves the life of:
A spider researcher
A book publisher
An 8-year old girl
According to their training, responsibilities or interests, each person creates, observes and talks about photography differently. Whether it is effective, good or beautiful depends entirely on who is watching, on their personal and cultural characteristics. And in each case, the operation of photography as an agent of change will be totally different.
And the thing is that photography changes everything: it changes what we want, what we see, who we are, what we do, where we go, what we remember.
Photography changes what we want
Photography influences our needs and allows us to explore desire. It plays a fundamental role in our search for what we are claiming, how we get excited, in our desires for intimacy or spectacle, or when we imagine beauty, happiness or success. It triggers the cravings we feel for things or experiences; we see them, search for them, find them, and even become obsessed. Photography changes what we want to buy, how we decorate our house or what dress we are going to wear for a party.
The iconic image of Marilyn Monroe by Sam Shaw
Photography changes what we see
Photography teaches us what the human eye does not see, things that are too big or small, too slow or fast, phenomena that exist beyond our gaze. Our knowledge is often based on our visual experiences. Photography changes our limits and reveals things that would otherwise go unnoticed such as what our planet is like, how spiders build, what the universe is like, animal species or how indigenous peoples live. Thanks to what we see, medical treatments and diagnoses have changed and we know the precious shape of water when it freezes. We know by images of some international events and it gives proof of the story we want to tell, including paranormal perceptions.
Snowflake. Alexey Kljatov
Photography changes who we are
Photography is essential for our self-knowledge. How we represent ourselves individually or in groups and what happens when we are photographed by other people, all contribute to the construction of our own image and stereotypes. Photography gives us a sense of belonging to our family, culture and community, reconstructs the history of our lives and builds our public image. It is very important how we perceive our own image, what it reveals to us and what we want to represent, so much so that it can sometimes change our luck in love. The human being is fascinated by his own image and never stops rediscovering it.
Photography changes what we do
Photography is a document of what we do, it gives us the freedom to follow our curiosity or impulses. Images allow us to communicate, learn and interact. We invest our time to create and share images, we use photographs in work, presentations, artistic creations and speeches. An image can change what we think to eat in a restaurant, but it can also make us assume the social responsibility of helping other people in the world, create references of people and alternative family forms and dare.
Photography changes where we go
Photography can transport us beyond borders; the ocean floor, and the topography of Mars, confirm the existence of black holes. It makes us explorers and motivates us to discover the exotic places we want to go to. The image of a poster can decide the movie that we are going to see at the cinema. The image of a street can lead us to it or even where we can see lavender fields.
Victor Gómez Machbel. Lagos de Covadonga
Photography changes what we remember .
Memory is mutable and slippery. Today as we document almost everything that happens to us, paradoxically, we are also creating our forgetfulness. We continually reinterpret images, they become talismans for memory, but they also create and interfere with individual and cultural transformation.
Project “Me acuerdo.” Juan Santos
Photography changes everything.
Article inspired by the book Photography changes everything by Marvin Heiferman.
Taking advantage of this article, we have asked some people, related or not to photographic creation, what photography is for them and they have told us: