Deepen Not Widen: Photography & Meaning

 

By James Emler. James is leading Photography and The Search for MeaningMarch 1–3 at The Haven.

Photo: James Emler, coat by Mary Sullivan Holdgrafer

The scope of photography has widened dramatically. Selfies and cell phones predominate on social media. The ability to share, to make ourselves visible has swept the Internet. We see pictures of people having fun, eating meals, drinking and partying. 

For some of us, this raises an important question. How do you value an image that is discarded after a three second viewing? The image as object is fading to obscurity.

We are bombarded with new products and new capabilities. Cameras have become so sophisticated that anyone can take a picture that is correctly exposed, sharp, and color balanced. Post processing technology makes our pictures malleable, allowing the user to fix mistakes and apply techniques that change the look of the image.

And there are so many “things” to photograph!

But to what end? Why take pictures at all? Can photography still be taken seriously? 

The answer is clear when we step back to consider what a camera is. It’s a tool, a very powerful tool that gives us the opportunity to explore, to ask questions, to delve deeply into the fundamental questions of life. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Is there a God? 

Images transcend spoken language, they speak a language of their own that is universal and they have enormous power. 

A camera is a device that allows us to see the world differently, to deepen our understanding of life and the lives that surround us.

In my own practice, I have had many unique moments, glimpsed the universe through another’s eyes, watched as memory floods a moment, shared the wonder that discovery brings, seen people experience revelation and had revelations myself, simply because I was using my camera.

This is what photography is to me, a chance to participate, to record, to investigate, to connect with others. It is the thing that makes life interesting and precious. It has nothing to do with equipment or processes, film or digital, large format or small.

One camera, one lens, connection and curiosity, that’s all it takes.

Join me to explore the potential – Photography and The Search for Meaning, March 1–3 at The Haven.