Most people would tell you that, in a catastrophe, they'd try to save their photographs above all other material possessions. It's probably what I would do. Photos are symbolic of our memories. They are the physical manifestations of the important moments of our life. Yet, to equate them with life, is something of a trap.
I was watching a podcast from George Eastman House, the world's premier museum of photography. The collection of photographs in the museum exceeds 400,000 images. The museum archivist in the podcast estimated that the amount of total, actual exposure time the collection represented, from 1839 to today, is less than one week. 170 years of life on earth is condensed into one week's worth of shutter clicks! The photos of our life are but tiny artifacts of the myriad complexities of life. Yet, these distillations tend to stick in our brain and crowd out other, more subtle and complex memories.
It's not that we shouldn't cherish our life's photographic images. They are jewels to be savored. Yet, photos are simply one facet of life, one kind of expression of the fleeting nature of things. In a world that is increasingly visual, more bombastic and distracting with every day, relying on photography (still or moving) to supply us with life's information is illusory.
Today's image was made during the holiday season in San Francisco. I often make photos when crossing the street. It freezes a moment that we consider to be in-between other, more significant moments. There is a kind of danger and excitement in street crossing that suits itself to photography—a convergence of energies. I love the way photography provides an unresolved tension in moments like these.