Images have been an intimate artifact throughout prehistory and they continue to be very present in our recorded history. And I make this inclusion to provide you with a fundamental understanding of the importance of images. And, hopefully, the role they play in your photographic viaje.
Images are a cherished part of our lives. They are narratives that capture emotions and feed our imagination. And some of the earliest images — cave paintings — date back as far as 40, 000 years ago. And these images, to this very day, stir heated debates about the artist and his (or her) intentions.
One of the oldest cave paintings was recently found in El Castillo Cave in Spain. There is now debate on who actually made this cave painting — some archaeologists believe that it was the Neanderthals. Yet other archaeologists are not so certain. But more importantly is — the why.
Why — did someone place their hands on this wall and spit red-pigment to create this outline? We may never know the intention. But the story is there in the painting. And if we watch and listen closely the story reveals itself to you:
- Was it a tribal marking where they were marking their territory? Warning trespassers of some horrific retribution?
- Or was it a message by scouts to the tribe that this cave is too dangerous for a new home?
- Or was it simply children playing with red pigment — stenciling their hand prints on the side of this rock. While the adult’s debated war on the neighboring tribe?
The stories are numerous and endless. And for each person that looks upon this image — a new story is created. Not better or worse than the intended meaning. Simply different. Simply yours.
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But why are images such a potent medium of expression? Why do they inspire some while antagonizing others? Well, this is not an uncomplicated answer. And there others who could more eloquently explain — the why. Such as photographer and educator Don Gregorio Antón.
While images present themselves in many formats — two-dimensional, three-dimensional, volatile, fixed and even mental images. These formats are nothing more than simple metadata. The data which provides information about the data. This metadata is rather inconsequential to the goal of the image — to tell the story. Or as Anton puts it “… a service to saving time.”
So if we peel back the metadata what remains is the foundation of the image — a unique language. Which develops into a very personal conversation and moves you left or right of the center. But why this uniqueness? Why does the story change per viewer? Per photographer? Per artist?
It is almost as if the image grants you permission to remake the story. So it can become a personal experience. Which not only enriches your palate but almost through some divine proclamation — the image makes you its ambassador.
But by the very fact that you have now changed the story. Has the image lost something? Has it become less than what it once was? On the contrary the image has become something more. An inspiration for you.
My images from that journey are glimpses of what I saw and felt. I like to think that someone will view my images and, with a little bit of imagination, take off on their own journey. I remember, during an exhibition a few years ago, someone was so inspired by one of my images – an image of una abuelita at a bus stop – because the woman in the photograph reminded him so much of his own grandmother, and he wrote a poem for her.
He was transported back to his youth and for that time relived his experience with his grandmother. Suddenly I felt connected with what I did and experienced.
And over the past 40,000 years, images and their meaning have changed very little. What has transformed significantly especially over the past 100 years — is how these images are now captured. Photography has gone from analog to digital. But the science is essentially the same.
Photography is the art, science, and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film, or electronically by means of an image sensor.
So do not concern yourself with the technology behind the lens. Or even the lens itself. Since technology always becomes antiquated. But focus on the story — become a master storyteller because the narrative never becomes antiquated. It evolves with each viewer and becomes part of them.