Documentary and Editorial Photography

Like a Chord


A friend recently asked me, quite directly, "why do you take photos?" I don't think he meant it aggressively, but I sensed two unspoken words in his question. "Even" and "anyway," as in: "why do you (even) take photos (anyway)?" After some thought, I realized that I take photos because they help me remember. 

The cover picture for this post, for example, reminds me of a rainy, summer afternoon. I had decided I really wanted to eat ramen at a place on H street, in Washington, DC. It was the middle of the afternoon in a busy neighborhood, so I knew we'd probably have to park a few blocks away and walk. The sky looked like it was about to unleash a downpour, but I didn't care. I wanted ramen.

My girlfriend, ever diligent, remembered to bring umbrellas. It didn't matter. We got caught in such heavy rain that even though our heads were dry, our feet, legs, backs, and even our shoulders were soaked. The torrent of water was so heavy we had to stop half way to the restaurant, and duck into a bar to wait out the storm. She ordered wine, and I ordered beer, and we watched the bartender—recently hired—fumble with our bill. 

About 20 minutes later the rain abated, and we walked on to the ramen place, only to be caught in a second downpour, even worse than the first. But we made it to the restaurant, and my soaked shoes and clothes almost made our arrival even more enjoyable.

I turned to my girlfriend, and she was smiling. I knew right then that I had to take a picture of her. Except that one picture turned into several, until she threw her hands up and laughed with her whole body, with a gesture that seemed to say, "oh, Daniel. I love you, but please put down the camera so we can eat." That story reminds me that as much as we strive to reach our destination, it's the journey (and the company we keep) that we most often remember.  

I don't think I'd remember that story as vividly, or possibly at all, were it not for that photo. Sometimes a single image acts like a chord that alone reminds you of a song, long forgotten, and pulls it out from the recesses of your memory. It helps us to remember that which might otherwise be lost.

And that is why I take photos. To create anchors for the stories, the places, and the people in my life that I don't want to forget, that I want to remember. 

I encourage you to find a similar reason to take pictures. A personal reason; a reason that means something to you. Go out and take pictures that enhance your experiences, and help you remember the moments that matter, whatever they are.

All images taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M10 mk.ii,
and the Olympus M. Zuiko 12mm f2 lens.