3 May 2015 When a tree falls in a forest, and there is no one there to hear it, no animal or person, is there any sound? When an event occurs, and there is absolutely no record of it happening, no damage, no witness, no written account, no image - has it happened?
The answer to both questions can only be, Yes presumably. We know it must be so, and yet our hearts linger over the idea that it is not and that there is no sound of the falling tree and the unrecorded event remains in a kind of limbo.
Records matter. If we ourselves leave no mark in the sand, did we exist? The details of the lives of early man are lost to us but when we see prehistoric cave art, these lives leap into prominence. So, they did live and die; they did have our experience of life, after all.
All art is a record of a kind, and photography more so than most. With the camera we can catch the fleeting moment, the off-guard, the person living their life without reference to the future. We can also be formal and aware of ourselves and many photographers succeed in bringing out the reality of the subject in a posed shot.
Personally, I prefer snatching the moment. This is the style of the present, the Facebook style, the chaotic party or pub shot taken from within a group of friends. It's immediate and relevant to the occasion. Later, it recalls a happy time perhaps better than the participants can recall it themselves; and later still, it gets deleted or lost. The trick is to catch the moment in a way that makes people want to keep the record. To make, in other words, a permanence out of the passing second. The reportage style of wedding photography is pre-eminent in this respect. A wedding confers implicit gravity on a photograph, even if the subject matter itself is anything but serious, and wedding photographs are always taken with the future in mind. But the technique of making a permanent photographic record can be applied to almost any situation.
The heavy burden of time is borne better by the black and white picture. This is strange, and shared by photography and statuary but by no other art. The colour photograph has immediate impact, certainly, but even if the colours don't fade the effect probably will. I can't explain this. It still gives me pleasure to take pictures in colour, and I hope others like the images too, but for the mark in the sand give me black and white every time.