"What makes photography a strange invention ..."

“What makes photography a strange invention …”

Something about John Berger‘s quote about “[w]hat makes photography a strange invention” really appeals to me. He apparently made this remark in response to Susan Sontag’s book, “On Photography”:

What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time.

PhotoQuotes has a slightly different version of Berger’s quote:

What makes photography a strange invention – with unforeseeable consequences – is that its primary raw materials are light and time.

The Art of Creative Photography has a short piece about Berger and his perspective on photography along with links to parts of a TV documentary Berger participated in. I haven’t watched the series yet but it looks fascinating.

John Berger: Ways Of Seeing

I don’t think I heard of John Berger before today and that is a pity. I noticed that he passed away yesterday at the age of 90. The Guardian paid tribute to his work late yesterday:

Susan Sontag once described Berger as peerless in his ability to make “attentiveness to the sensual world” meet “imperatives of conscience”. Jarvis Cocker, to mark a recent book of essays about Berger, said: “There are a few authors that can change the way you look at the world through their writing and John Berger is one of them.”

One of his passages from his book “Keeping a Rendezvous” touches on my passion for documenting my life and my family, partly as a way of maintaining a memory of each moment I capture:

All photographs are there to remind us of what we forget. In this -as in other ways- they are the opposite of paintings. Paintings record what the painter remembers. Because each one of us forgets different things, a photo more than a painting may change its meaning according to who is looking at it.

Image credit: Life in Shadows by Sippanont Samchai, licensed CC BY NC ND 2.0


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