The still photograph is not so still. The photograph asks questions. It suggests a story. It presents an idea in a language without words. It is even as it signifies. Video killed nothing, and the still photograph survives (even as the radio star carries on). Unlike video, you can take the still photograph in. You have a role in your experience of the photograph. It speaks to you at a speed that you can handle, that doesn’t overwhelm, that invites your participation and imagination. You can look into its nooks and crannies and seek out all it has to offer. All this at your own pace, and for your own reasons.
The still photograph is a water that runs deep. If it seems to sit there, that’s its charm. The still makes you active, because it’s impossible to just look. Indeed, that’s the point, and all the while the still is not nearly inert. It just moves differently, at a different pace, like a tree.
You fill the stillness with motion, the silence with voices. You hear these people, feel the breeze come across the flowers, sympathize with a long face or smile with happy eyes. Or you imagine the immediate suspension of all motion and noise and concentrate on only the image and the miracle of capturing time itself.
Video? Its harsh, grating noise, the motion too fast to keep up with – video steals your ability to think about what you’re seeing and replaces your mind with its own images. The difference between the still photograph and video is the difference between democracy and dictatorship.
Notes and Credits
On December 15, 2009, I had the opportunity to hear two award-winning photographers, Lynsey Addario and Damon Winter, discuss their work at the Museum of the City of New York. After the panel discussion, one member of audience asked them if they were experimenting with video, given the prominence of video on the Web and current developments in social media and journalism. Of course they were interested, but they were still committed to the still photograph. That’s what got them aroused in the first place, and the still continues to drive them today. Moderater Kathy Ryan, photo editor for the NYT Magazine, chimed in that photos are still much more popular than videos on the Magazine’s website, perhaps because the photos allow the viewer to control what they are seeing. So that got me thinking . . .
All the photos featured in this post were taken by the author. Go back and double-click them to see a larger view. Enjoy. If you want to see some interesting and incredible photos by others more talented and adept with shutters than I, check out the work of some friends at T’INGS, Chloe, and the No Words Daily Pix on Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.