Why Do You Photograph?

October 31st. Halloween.

This day always revives many memories for me. I shouldn’t say “revives”. It’s more like “reminds”. This photograph was taken 30+ years ago. The exact amount of “plus” has been forgotten, but the 30 years hasn’t been. Neither has the Halloween of 30 years ago, for this was the Halloween that we buried my 15 year old brother. He had been hit by a car a week earlier and was laid to rest on Halloween.

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Why do we photograph?  To record?  To document?  To remember?  I photograph for two reasons.

The first: to communicate artistic thoughts, ideas and feelings that I can’t through any other medium.

The second: to remember.  I’m convinced that my memory fades each passing day. It was never great, but as I age, so does it.

I read a passage in the Sally Mann book “Hold Still” recently that really made me think about memories.  It stated: “I tend to agree with the theory that if you want to keep a memory pristine, you must not call upon it too often, for each time it is revisited, you alter it irrevocably, remembering not the original impression left by experience but the last time you recalled it. With tiny differences creeping in at each cycle, the exercise of our memory does not bring us closer to the past but draws us farther away”.

I found this theory interesting. And it made me think that my second reason I photograph is the most important one. My memories change, but my photographs don’t. This photo looks the same today as it did 30+ years ago. It remembers the smile my brain would have forgotten.  Not that I would have forgotten it entirely, but I certainly would have forgotten some of the specifics about it.

There’s one thing I’ll never forget, and that’s his last words. “I’m going to try to cross. I think I can make it.”. He didn’t. And I’ve never forgotten that brisk October evening.

Rest in peace little brother.

Photograph. Share. Remember.