Photography Through the Years

In 1988 I opened a magazine and saw an image by English photographer Larry Burrows. Burrows was considered one of the most important photographers to cover the war in Vietnam. The image was of two soldiers, one white-one black, embracing on a hilltop after a firefight. I could not look away. Not an overly emotional person I began to fight the fact my mind and body were writhing in emotion. The photograph simply made me feel in a way I had never felt before. Shortly after I changed my direction in life, from geology to photography, and nearly thirty-years later I’m still involved in photography, and am still moved by the work of Larry Burrows.

Over the past twenty-years the realities of photography have changed dramatically. I worked for Kodak in the late 1990’s when the company introduced the first digital cameras capable of creating images large enough for a six-column newspaper page or magazine cover. The idea of digital photography became reality and with this reality came a changing playing field of a once stagnant industry that was now exploding into an electronic future. There were growing pains. Over saturation of imagery, diminishing editorial outlets, the faltering of the stock industry and the devaluation of photography in general amongst others. But these are filters and obstacles of the professional industry, not the core of photography.

Below the murk of an industry, photography still means just as much today as it ever has. It might be delivered to use through avenues we never dreamed of, or in waves of average or below average work that needs to be culled and filtered, but at the core photography is still a powerful medium representing things like truth, preservation, history, emotion, glamour and evidence. Ever sat with family members and looked back through a family photo album? Ever relived a moment with your favorite sporting team through the images of a sideline photographer? Ever wanted to know what was really happening on the front lines of conflict? Ever pinned a poster of your hero to a bedroom wall? Photography continues to change foreign policy, human history and everyday lives.

We make pictures for today, but in many ways photography gets stronger with time. Photography is about memory. Our brains weren’t designed to remember all the intricate details, but the lens doesn’t lie. The bad haircuts, the graduation photographs, the signing of peace treaties and the endless showcase of the world’s famous, famished and unforgettable. Where would we be without it?

The future of photography is unknown, but that’s the way it should be. The best photographs are mysterious. They ask as many questions as they answer and they never let you go. Good photography is haunting, inspiring and confrontational, and it is open to anyone with a light tight box and a willingness to embrace the wider world, the unknown and the voice inside them.

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