Some of my earliest memories of photography and the magic it holds were physical. The innocence of childhood. Picking up the handmaid photo albums my mother put together with wonder and intrigue. The turtle shell texture and carbon color binder held hundreds of polaroids and convenience store Kodak prints. As a kid, my finger would make its way over the neatly organized rows of photos sleeping under the vintage layer of cellophane film to see if I could find myself. Eventually, when I did, grinning from ear to ear, I’d find a way to mess up that neat creation and secretly remove those photos of myself my mother neatly tucked away. “Mine!” I would say dashing down the hallway into my room. Hiding them in a secret place for only me to find and enjoy. Of course, my mother would eventually uncover where I hid them, scold me in Yoruba while putting them back, and then proceed to go on her way.

Lauren, why do you think it is we celebrate life through photography? Do you ever wonder why we’re so quick to snap a pic and not live in the moment? Are we afraid the libraries of our mind will fail us?

I think it’s because at our core memories make us human. And in those exact moments in time, we feel they would be lost if we didn’t claim them as ours.

“I walk into the bakery next door
To my apartment. They are about
To pull some sort of toast with cheese
From the oven. When I ask:
What’s that smell? I am being
A poet, I am asking
What everyone else in the shop
Wanted to ask, but somehow couldn’t;
I am speaking on behalf of two other
Customers who wanted to buy the
Name of it.”

– from “A Small Moment” by Cornelius Eady

Some might say that photographs are the poetry of sight.

Images can put names to things that were previously unnamed, and they draw into the light what might otherwise have gone unnoticed by the everyday eye. Like you said, Profit, memories make us human. As humans, we are all called to be witnesses, but the artist, especially, is called to witness the beauty in life—to draw it out and to sort through it even in the darkest days because beauty can take us to places of hope. Artists sort through the chaos of the world. They sift through the mire and show you what is to be noticed, and the photographer, in particular, helps you to see with different eyes altogether.

We have names for many things, but a photo can capture the mysteries of living that exist in that extraterrestrial space, that in-between realm between what happened and what’s remembered. It can draw our eyes to what we hadn’t been previously conscious of, and it can give us the eyes of others.

When we see something beautiful, it’s natural to want to claim it. We are so drawn to beauty that we want it to envelope us, and we want to envelop it—and then share it with others.

C.S. Lewis says, “It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with.”

A photo is a conduit that allows us to share the magnificence, the monumental pieces of life with others.

So what happens when we take the likeness of photography and multiply it ad nauseam? Most of us are attached to our screens. Everyone has one these days. We can take photos both instantly and incessantly. As more and more people have what can become an all-consuming obsession with sharing everything on social media, does the beauty degrade? Does it become commonplace?

If not occasionally checked, the practice of unlimited and unintentional app using and careless photo taking will only produce a junk drawer of shadows—icons of what was and what we missed. It takes a great amount of discernment and self-control to recognize which moments are simply for living and which are for memorializing.

But memorialize, we must! There are many relics in each life, and the photograph can bring forth their depths. Life is richer, brimming with meaning and memory when we can consider it through the photo. We all want to remember—and since life tends to barrel forward, taking time to stop and pay homage to the beauty and hardship in life can only make the human experience more abundant in its extent and scope. The craft of photography, when done well, helps us bear witness to the things that might have gone unsaid, to the invisible sphere of emotion, the expanse of humanness.

Photographers are apt to consider what has gone unseen. They look for the shapes and silhouettes of meaning and collect the things we’ve wanted to name but couldn’t. They distill the frenzy of a scene and draw meaning and beauty from its disarray.

In the words of Kathy Ryan, Director of Photography for the New York Times Magazine, “[Photographers] call our attention to the things we miss in our everyday lives, and they call our attention to events and people at a great distance from our own patch of the universe. When they direct our eyes and hearts with precision and honesty, we know what we know differently and better. Photographers teach us to look again, look harder. Look through their eyes.”

The remarkable thing about working with a photographer is that while they’re doing the work of distilling a scene to its raw beauty, you and whoever else is in the photo, are free to simply experience life. When you’re not in charge of taking your own picture, it’s a lot easier to experience the moment in all its glory. Profit, as you said, the libraries of our mind can fail us—they gather dust as more and more books and anthologies of memory pile up. Photography grounds us in the essence of a point in time and helps us draw forth the beauty that we want to remember, the magic we want to immortalize.

For more context about this blog post, read the first in the series “Relationship is a Dance With Tension.”

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