Why do we photograph?

Swift River Reflections #2

Swift River Reflections #2

This article appeared in Ground Glass, published by the Harrisburg Camera Club in 2006

Why do we photograph? An interesting question, answered by each photographer from our interests, talents, and experiences --- perhaps from the depths of personal darkness or the pinnacles of personal joy --- possibly with hopes and prayers for a better tomorrow --- or maybe just because we have fun with the gadgets and enjoy the creative memories.

I want to tell briefly of a recent personal experience which has touched my soul and which speaks to the power of the creative artistic process that photography affords for us and for those who view our work. Several of my photographs had been on exhibit at a restaurant in Carlisle. A woman asked if I would speak with her about one of the images that she was interested in purchasing. As we stood looking at the photograph she began to cry, haltingly alluding to the surging memories released by the colors and forms in the image, and the additional significance of a specific numbered image in the limited edition series. We spoke quietly for many minutes and ended with a hug and a mutual bond that she understands much better than I do. She shared neither the details of the memories, nor the significance of the number, but those issues aren’t the point. What matters is that the image had profound meaning for her. And also the experience encapsulates for me the power of art to engage all of us in a deeply spiritual dimension and as a medium for both healing and for joy.

This paragraph is from the “Artist’s Statement” that I wrote a year ago in preparation for my exhibit at the Perry County Council for the Arts: “A truly effective image is evocative for the viewer, just as the experience in the moment was for the photographer. As for many individuals, a sense of place and permanence is important to me. But we are all on a journey in this life, seeking and thirsting for what we do not understand, for spiritual meaning in our life and in our relationships with our families and friends, and with the Sacred. Celtic peoples spoke of “thin places”, where the veil separating us from the other side is briefly transparent. It is those places, on that Holy Ground, those experiences in the natural world that compel me to photograph. And, I hope that at least some of my images offer a glimpse through that veil for the viewer. No artist could wish for more.”

This photograph surely evoked a “thin place” experience in this woman’s life. And the encounter was a ‘thin place” experience for me, as I gain appreciation of the opportunities and the privileges we share as photographers and artists.

                                                                                                                                                                  Larry Rankin