The Photograph is youthful when it is plastered down & next to the history of music, literature, dancing, acting, painting & sculpture. It is still growing in its own world. Floating into a galaxy that supports instant viewing, a criterion for many photographers, & a crowded place of competitiveness where the photographer want to come out as the photographer whose photographic works has the most attention.
As often as we as a society had to listen to this century old statement, “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words,” the reality that goes with the theory in numbers, can be a down payment of words, tucked into such advice. At the time of stating this in 1911, editor of a newspaper, Tess Flanders is credited with being the first to express such a sentiment. It might have been a great way to push societies, who were accepting the medium of photography along with its around 84 years old age, into seeing the larger picture—at least when you look at it from an investor’s standpoint. A photograph can be a hundred thousand words or just one complete word that is heavy with emotions. When the onlooker peels back the layers in a moment—the quietness that finds a straight line in their pace of thoughts is remarkably a form of self-actualization. We can see so much in just one photograph. Untie this “so much” & from here, you can understand the high-tech options with huge storage spaces in digital photography. This can be a host to hundreds & thousands of photographs. A collection of photographs from one photographer can be worth millions of words.
The photograph is still important, regardless of the storage options that we greet in our high-tech world. In 1963. Robert Jackson who has a serious Eye, photographed a black-&-white moment that is accurately titled, “The Murder of Lee Harvey Oswald.” At least 15 men are present in this photograph’s frame. Some are wearing formal hats & suits. A reporter holding a microphone & wearing a trench coat can be viewed on the photograph’s far right, right next to a man with one hand on his cigar & his other hand, reaching out to try & stop Jack Ruby from his mission to kill Lee. Even the cop wearing his decorated hat, in the background has a look of surprise, matching the man on Lee Harvey’s right hand side. Lee is wearing a sweater & dress shirt under it. His mouth is open, his face takes on the suffering emotion as he physically feels the firepower from a firearm. The entire frame of this photograph appears to be a dress rehearsal. However, it is the reality of the suspected murderer of President Kennedy being murdered by a man who died without leaving any clarity to why he killed Lee? In addition to these chain of events, the murdering of President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, & Jack Ruby has touched on unresolved motives, all of which has been moved into collusion filled conjectures. Robert’s photograph, “The Murder of Lee Harvey Oswald” is a testament to the unresolved. The looks on these men faces are quiet, lost, surprised, & detached. This photograph is important enough to rationalize what happened, what was frozen to be restudied by the present, as well as by future civilizations. Robert’s Nikon S 3 photographed a past. His photograph became a rewind button with the moment being a palpable object.
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Gordon Parks, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Roy DeCarava, Diane Arbus, Man Ray, Tina Modotti, Don McCullin, Bill Brandt, Margaret Bourke-White, Sam Abell, Edward Weston, Nadar, Eve Arnold, Letizia Battaglia, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Lee Miller, & this list could go & on. It is a list of photographers who dived into this medium called photography & came up for air with moments that were important, palpable. One moment, one photograph, one chief importance that has more or less, met the abandoning ways from a present society that can feast off of so much photography. This kind of abandonment can cause good & great photography to be missed in a modern whirlwind of visual images being tossed into the Internet.
Photography wears the age of 190 plus years very well. Just take a look at its layers. The Daguerreotype, Ambrotype, Calotype, Tintype & all of the other types that moved throughout the mid & late 1800’s, to the photographic prints produced from paper & film photography formats that came in 110, 117, 120, 220, 135, 4×5, 5×7, & 8×10. These types & formats opened the doors to the 20th Century to be visually diverse, outside of solely embracing drawings, sculptures & paintings. Photography has been proffering its power to be respected as a medium, ever since its started to see the first cue of success, going back to when Nicéphore Niépce & Louis Daugerre were figuring out what a box, a lens, a metal plate, light & some chemicals could do for the benefits of finding the latent image.
As we ruffle through seeing so many photographs in a present form. It would not be uncommon to come into a realization that we can mistreat the photograph as being unimportant; we can advance to the next photograph without thinking twice about the beauty, harshness, wars, peace, celebrations, deaths, rebirths, hypocritical actions, questions, answers, lack of compassion, silence, humane moments that outlines a desire for a societal “right now fix” to see a visual, because I am bored kind of luxury.
The unencumbered completeness in defining photography is one of appearance— it is a visual to be seen, felt, & elevated into being indispensable. This has to be a consistent reminder on the sleeves of society, finding the force of collecting the subjectivity & objectivity in believing in the moment. It is a photographic sight; it is photography, one photograph at a time—which is more important than any impulse to drink up instant gratification in order to power up the speedy boost that can drive the onlooker of a photograph through a rush of time. We can actually see ourselves. Please do not blink, take your precious time & enter into one photograph as if you are making one stride with the exact moment that you are exploring with open eyes.
Shaun La is a photographer & writer. Starting off with the medium of photography at the age of 18 (20 years ago) with a Minolta Hi-Matic & 135 film, the desire to see the moment became a way to envision the possibilities in wanting to be a timer awaiting to see if he could photograph more moments. His photography extends into fashion, street, photojournalism, landscape, still-life & candid realities—still utilizing film cameras only, 135 & medium-format film. As a writer, he has penned numerous essays on various topics, which has been published by the Amsterdam News, the Baltimore Sun, Afro-Punk, Camera Obscura & other media outlets. Currently he is working on his book, “The Perpetual Intellectual View Called Photography: Essays,” & putting together the building blocks for an exhibition on his photography.
Please take the time out to see more of his work & writings, which can be viewed here: http://www.shaunarts.com