Friday, February 27, 2009

Worth 10,000 Words

By James Gilbert Pynn

Though it may seem trite now, the expression still carries with it some verisimilitude of truth. A picture is worth a thousands words. A picture can inspire volumes of words. A picture can change the course of history and encapsulate decades of human toil. A photograph can inspire and cajole; it can demean and uplift. A picture can thread time, weaving together generations of families and reunite lost loves.

That photography is a powerful medium goes without saying. It would be tantamount to labeling television as mesmerizing. It speaks for itself and the truth of the matter is self-evident. In a sense, photography is the fulfillment of eons of artistic endeavor. To capture our surroundings, to give meaning to the events of our lives has been a human preoccupation since the first cave paintings were drawn in Lascaux.

Photography can elicit deep emotional responses. Therein lies its power. Margaret Bourke White's study of rural poverty during the Great Depression, for instance, continues to haunt us. Human suffering transcends time and photography ensures we will never forget. Mere words cannot encapsulate the terror, pain or even sublime joy of the human condition.

Every person has a collection of photographs. This speaks to our need to see, be seen, and be remembered. Even in photography's infancy, the demand for daguerreotypes of family members were in incredible demand. Soldiers in the Civil War, regardless of which side they were fighting for, carried tintypes of their wives and sweethearts close to their hearts. Perhaps the superstitions that photographs capture a bit of a person's soul are true. We cherish our photographs because we cherish the people in them. We are instantly connected their essence, their laughter, their movements.

Though we are all capable of taking pictures, few of us actually craft them. While most of us record our loved ones with camcorders, for that matter, few of us possess the vision of a masterful director like Stanley Kubrick. Photography, though it lies in the public domain, is an art. Anyone can buy a box of oil paints, but few of us are Monet or Bonheur. The serious study of photography requires a passion for the human condition and a commitment to excellence. One well-composed, conscious photograph is well worth 10,000 words. - 16651

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