The Photographic Paradox


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The Photographic Paradox
Each photograph is a stepping stone on a journey. We think of photography as freezing time and capturing the moment. But what are we really holding onto and where do all those pixels end their journey?



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Photography is a paradox. No moment is ever truly captured, the moment will not last forever. The perfection of pixels are easily lost in the digital sands of time, erased from storage by neglect or simply lost beneath a global junk heap of electrons, never to be seen again. Nothing is truly permanent, nothing is forever.

Why capture this moment when another is just around the corner?

Jay Griffiths wrote of time. We race against time, we try to stop the clock, we try to preserve the moment. Time doesn't have to be rectilinear, it isn't always running out. Time can be cyclical, it comes around again, the seasons return, the earth renews. Time passes but then returns and it’s never the same the next time around.

Time and time again we seek to capture a moment. The moments do pass but they make space for others to arrive. In the mind these moments merge, they fuse, they meld into something unique that can only exist as echoes of the past. Moments that live only as long as you do.

So many photos fall silent. Their artistic beauty supplanted by enduring obscurity. The brilliance of an Instagram lasts only for an instant, and then it’s swept away like last years wrapping paper.

Your photographs will outlive your body. Some of them. Most will be preserved in darkness, trapped in silicon as they await another moment to shine. In silence they become buried beneath an accumulation of pixels, layered deep under the weight of an information revolution. We dig up the planet only to bury our lives.

The buddhists believe that all things are impermanent. Everything passes. The paradox is that photography is not about making moments last forever. We are melding moments to create new ones, laying a path for others to follow so that they too can experience something unique. One photograph is a stepping stone on a journey. A gallery of images becomes a walk in the park.

Our journeys are cyclical, like the seasons. We come back over and over, although it’s never the same twice. Everything is different even when they’re the same.

The joy of photography is not in permanence. Joy is seeing what returns. The paradox is that everything returns yet nothing remains.


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This feature was last updated on Wednesday 03rd April 2019

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