Sunday, October 18, 2009

What Triggers the Shot (subjective or unusual realities).

As many pant their painful way through this year’s Amsterdam marathon I leisurely witness their stress from a vantage point on top of a bridge. All around me and along the track many cheer and many take pictures, thus setting me to think about what actually moves people to want to take pictures of this or that in the first place and whether their motivations can be at all fathomed or indeed classified in clear and general guidelines. Thirty years into my personal obsession and profession I have taken photographs for all the right, and probably most of the wrong reasons, which somehow should qualify me to tackle the question, also given the fact that on this particular moment I don’t feel like shooting at all and much rather sip on my paper cupped cappuccino and lose myself in abstract thoughts as I am wont to do in the presence of mass hysteria of the sportive kind.

Individual motivations are either typical or unfathomable by definition. Actually I guess the typical is by large more frequent and likely than the original. As the typical has this way of appearing original to the beholder of the thought in question, any attempt at mass investigation or statistics is doomed from the start. So trust my own instinct on this one. If my guess is as good as anyone’s, surely on the same account it is not likely to be any worse than yours, should our opinions differ, and perfectly all right, should they coincide.

Boldly split, the motivation for taking photographs is either evolutionary procreative sexual bodily or aesthetic cultural entertainment and human curiosity (the superior capacity of being captivated by anything other than feeding, procreation and survival). In short: beauty or the beast. Take any picture and you will find that it fits into at least one or more of above-mentioned classes. Whether a picture is more or less effective in ticking its intended box is the measure of how accomplished it is, regardless of any judgement on the legitimacy of its goals and subject matter. The motivation for looking at pictures can be roughly classified in exactly the same way as the taking, thus completing the cycle.

The taking of pictures easily fits into the profile of a species of hunter-gatherers, as an activity. Left to his or hers own evolutionary devices, this is what people do with photography when spontaneous and free. Of course much goes on in photography which is neither, and professionals in particular are able to toggle with many elements at will in perfect awareness and next to perfect technical prowess as to where they want the picture to go and what it needs to say. Then there are the intentions of those who do not control the process but still try to, leading to poor imitations, stereotypes, and boring pictures in general. Bad pictures constantly happen, but boring ones are mostly made intentionally.

As my fellow humans below push on their podistic endurance quest I am for once perfectly at ease with not taking pictures and mildly amused by the unexpected serendipity of my recent thoughts. Of course I have merely scratched at the surface of the problem, but it kept me from the worst indulgence of all in taking pictures: mindless automatic compulsion.

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