Making the World a Smaller Place with Photography
Last time, we talked about how photography lets us examine the diversity of life. That’s not the only way photography has changed our world, however. This art form has made the world smaller, and as it has done so, it has also given us something else: truth and accuracy.
The Immutable Image
Some of us simply cannot make the brush or the pencil recreate what we see in our mind’s eye. Even among artists who can easily paint or sketch, the finished work is still an interpretation of reality.
This isn’t the case with photography. We can manipulate images in Photoshop, apply filters, or even use lenses to create certain effects. But underneath the fancy camera work and post-processing, there will always be a layer of truth. After all, every photograph starts with one thing: the real, live scene that unfolds in front of the camera.
That brings me to accuracy. We’ve all seen artist representations of courtrooms or other events, and I’ve had the pleasure of looking at art created by those who specialize in photorealistic techniques. While beautiful, these works can never have the perfect accuracy of a simple, unprocessed photo. Maybe the colors in a particular painting aren’t an exact representation of the real thing, or perhaps the artist took some liberties with the scene. On the other hand, a photograph shows you exactly what happened, down to the minute details like fleeting expressions or blades of grass bending in the breeze.
Making the World Smaller
These days, no one gives a second thought to our ability to look at things that are half a world away. But it wasn’t always that way. In the early years of photography, this element captured the public’s fancy. A photographer in an exotic land could easily and inexpensively document the strange sights he saw and send those images home to people who never dreamed they would ever be able to see such unusual things.
Even though we take it for granted, this is a facet of photography that will always amaze me. I’ve never been to an active battlefield, but thanks to brave photographers who have, I can look at the images and see the truth of war. I’ll never travel back in time to see the dawn of the twentieth century, but the wealth of historical photos gives me a sense of what life was like. We can all look at famous landmarks, important events, or even rare plants and animals that we may never see in person simply because a photographer was present who took the time to document what he saw.
I can’t say what our world would be like without photography, but I am certain that it wouldn’t be the rich and colorful place it is. If you’re ever at a loss for ideas or inspiration, remember that as a photographer, the images you create have the potential to change the world and bring us all a little bit closer together.