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I've often wondered why photography? Why I, and so many like myself, are so attracted to photography. Could it be as simple as the innate desire to make art? Historians mark the emergence of the human mind at the point where art objects enter the fossil record. Endowing a utilitarian object with artwork that neither makes the item stronger or more efficient is the very essence of being human. This is who we are. So in this world of near endless artistic outlets, why do we choose photography? In addition, why does this desire to take photographs hit most strongly in the later years of our lives. So why after years of us just taking snapshots at family functions are we now spending so much time towards photography? Indeed, it's not just me that is getting into photography at a later age. One need only visit their local camera store to see which patrons are peering through the glass display at the latest lenses and the far too expensive gadgets. These are not high school kids nor are they young professionals. Instead you'll find people like you and people like me there. We come from all walks of life, some retired, some not quite, some with grand kids and some with great grand kids, some with more grey hair than others but all of us have one thing in common - all are past the median point in our lives. But with so many different hobbies and artistic pursuits available to us, why choose photography? What is it about taking photographs that seems to take over so many of us in the late summer/early fall of life?

The first thought that comes to mind is life experience. We've all been through a lot - married, divorced and married again, finished school, found jobs, lost jobs, raised kids, buried friends and family members, married off kids and now watching grand kids grow. Summing it all up we have all been through change. Ever since we started this journey through time the one thing that hasn't changed is change. Some change for the better, some for the worse. Perhaps the attraction to photography is the ability to freeze time and for a moment stop change. For those of us who have seen enough change in our lives, the power of freezing time provides a powerful motive. Indeed, an image trapped in our little black box it will never change, it will never be lost and will be there when we return to it. This is the insecurity of aging. We know deep down inside the game is coming closer to its inevitable conclusion so savoring these moments in time provides a strong impetus.

Maybe the answer is intelligence, or rather wisdom of the years. Time has provided us with a level of wisdom that can only come with the living of a life. While we all strive to produce art in one way or another we now have the wisdom of self and the understanding of our limitations. When I was young I wanted to play guitar in a rock 'n roll band. I carried my guitar with me everywhere and played it whether or not those around me wanted to hear me play. Then when I went off to college I thought writing would be my forte. I believed Ralph Ellison when he said everyone has at least one novel in them waiting to get out. But the demands of school, followed by a job and a family to raise ate up whatever time I had to devote to writing. Instead I thought I would write poetry. Poetry is just a novel distilled into its pure essence. No character development needed, just pure emotion and word play. And through all my artistic pursuits, from guitar to poetry, one overriding fact kept staring me in the eye - just like Antonio Salieri in the movie Amadeus - I was not the prodigy I wished I were but was just another patron saint of mediocrity. Gifted with just enough insight to see how infinitely great the talents of others were in comparison to my skills. It became painfully clear that I would never play the blues like Stevie Ray Vaughn and the novel Ellison seems to see inside us would put even me to sleep faster than my poetry.

Perhaps the realization of one's true potential paves the way towards photography as a creative outlet. Beauty is said to be in the eye of the beholder and we have all lived long enough to appreciate real beauty when we see it. Seeing the beauty all around us does not require prodigy-like talent and learning to capture that beauty is a skill that can be developed. Looking over the images produced by world class photographers can lead one to believe with some effort we too can produce such images. It's certainly less disheartening than listening to Stevie Ray Vaughn's version of "Little Wing" and knowing you'll never make a guitar cry like that. Moreover, the start-up costs of photography is modest in comparison and even the lowest level camera/lens outfit can still produce world class photographs.

But how does this account for the age of those of us jumping head first into photography? After years of passively watching time pedal past us do we now seek a way to lock these fleeting moments in time? We have all bore witness to the dramatic and the beautiful, the sublime and the painful, all marching steplong through time giving no warning nor pausing longer than a simple glance. Indeed, no longer do I want to be a passive observer, I want to capture these moments and make them mine. I want a record of that which I have witnessed, that which I saw as beautiful and that which tells my story. I want these captured moments in time to say for years to come "I was here and this is how I saw the world". Maybe this too explains the role of photography for the 45 and above crowd. Perhaps there's an unspoken belief that if we leave behind our vision of the world we leave behind a piece of ourselves and thereby achieve a small measure of immortality? Perhaps some day, if we are fortunate, someone somewhere will see this frozen moment of beauty and they will wonder who - who was this person and what is this image telling me about him? What is he trying to say about his world and about what he found most beautiful about his world? Maybe this is why I'm so attracted to photography. It's nice to think that some day someone in the future will see my images and wonder who I was and why I chose these moments in time to freeze and pass along. And maybe I will find that small measure of immortality?

I guess only time will tell...
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  1. Rick M's Avatar
    Interesting insight Mojo.

    I look at photography as a way to express my interpertation of life as I see it and have a desire to share my vision. Yes, it is a skill that can be developed, but not by everyone. I don't think there are vastly more great photographers than great singers or any other type of artist. There are many folks running around with expensive photo gear producing high resolution garbage. Personally, I've been involved in photography since childhood and can honestly say I have less than 5 pictures I feel are "great", but for some reason I am driven to continue. I think your last paragraph is why.
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  2. eurotrash's Avatar
    I just think it's really fun being able to capture the world's offerings from differing viewpoints than people normally see them. Add to that my own style of art and it makes me feel like I'm giving back in a way, giving people something new and revised to look at. It might make people think. Might make them reflect on something they remember from childhood. Could bring up memories of some sort. That's what drives me.

    And I make some money off of it as well, so there's that too..
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  3. Ruidoso Bill's Avatar
    I do it to earn money. I'm happy it is something I enjoy.
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  4. RookieDSLR's Avatar
    I do it mainly to capture those images of my loving kids that I know I will inevitably forget one day and can always go back and look at so that I can enjoy them over and over. I also like being able to take a picture and then alter it anyway I want with the various photo editing software just to see what I can come up with. But mainly I do photography so that my wife has something to do with her extra time (scrapbooking!) Haha sorry hun.
    Jeremy V.
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  5. Carolina Photo Guy's Avatar
    I do photography because I have such a crappy memory! Of course, now I sit and wonder where all these places ARE!
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    Thanks/Like Ruidoso Bill, Photowyzard Thanks/liked this post
  6. Ruidoso Bill's Avatar
    As usual Pete, short and to tbe point!
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  7. TedG954's Avatar
    I can produce- with a camera - what I cannot with a brush and a pen.
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  8. silvercreek's Avatar
    Photography give me an opportunity to freeze a moment in time and say, I was there.
    1 Thanks/Like
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