Experiences of all kinds can transform us in different ways. Photography is one of the most profound. One of my favorite photo sharing sites, Viewbug.com, displays this quote each time a user signs on:
Photography helps people to see. — Berenice Abbott
Yes, photography has that potential, that power. As the quote from Buddha above indicates, photos that focus us on a single flower, or leaf, or tree, can transform how we see life, creation, and beauty. Photos of landscapes we may never see in person can broaden our views in profound ways. If I have never seen mountains or the ocean, photos of them – if I really look at them and imagine being there – can broaden my perspective and give me new desires and goals for travel.
Photos of people have their own transformative power. Close-ups provide views we can’t experience any other way. Diversity of people across the world reveal both our shared and divergent characteristics and experience. History is illuminated in the faces and bodies of human beings. Photos taken by others can make us aware of realities that we didn’t know about, or bring to life something we had heard or read. A powerful example of this is the impact that the images transmitted across the country and the world of some of the violent episodes during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s. The dogs attacking children. Crosses burning in front of homes. A 6-year old African-American girl walking to a previously all-white school with white adults screaming at her, and national guard soldiers with guns guarding her. The bloated, beaten body of Emmett Till in his casket after being murdered in Mississippi. And many more.
Those photos awakened millions of people to realities they had only read about. They transformed how people saw their country. It activated enough people to act over time that changes occurred. This happened with other historical events as well, such as the Vietnam War.
Photography we view can transform in these ways and more. The person taking the photos experiences another level of transformation. As a compulsive photographer, I find myself seeing things I want to capture in a photo all of the time. This includes while I am driving on the freeway at 70 miles per hour! I dream of having a camera mounted on the top of my car with the ability to turn it in the direction I want and zoom in through controls on my steering wheel like I control my hands free phone.
But even if I can’t stop, I have noticed. The photographer’s eye for images counteracts the auto-pilot that so easily consumes us in our busy lives. We see things that others may just drive by. Looking at our own photos helps us see and reflect on our lives, our experiences and what we may want in our future. A photo may be worth a thousand words, or a changed mind, or a dream and focus for the future. Photography has the power to transform.
Here is an example of how photography can illuminate history and broaden our perspectives. Through the African American Lens: Double Exposure is the first in a series, and available at Amazon.com through my affiliate link.