You might have heard: things are complex. And when things are complex, it’s important to find reductive ways to help people navigate them consistently; to collectively feel and remember the ‘right’ things.
Some oppose reductiveness because it masks the ‘truth’, but thinking there is only one truth is dangerously obscuring in itself. Reducing complexity into a form that captures its salience is an art, partly because it is a job of subjectively editing; influencing as well as capturing.
I was listening to a Radiolab podcast about a war photographer at the weekend. In the paraphrased words of the narrator: sometimes, in the chaos, complexity and ambiguity, a single photograph can bring things into focus for people: freezing the essence of the madness that swirls beyond. The example from the podcast is an American flag draped over the body of Lance Corporal Jonathan Taylor, killed in Afghanistan. He is surrounded by troops in prayer, just seconds after life support was switched off.
This is what photographers call The Decisive Moment.
Decisive Moments are important. They exist beyond the battlefield, but I’ll leave you to consider where (turning tragedy into corporate analogy feels a bit wrong). They are a version of the truth that binds people who share common values — or help to forge new ones. They provide a vehicle for common understanding.
It’s a mess out there and capturing even a fleeting a version of that chaos to bring people together is not only necessary, it’s also very human. In that way, they feel incredibly… what’s that word… ‘true’.