The other day, as I was critiquing a photo on a photographer website I’m part of (solicited criticism, I might add), I found myself looking at the image and thinking, “It’s really just a standard snapshot.” And in that moment, a “snapshot” wasn’t good, wasn’t worthy. A “snapshot” was something your mom took during a school recital, not a serious piece of art.
As I’ve pondered that the past few days, it occurred to me that maybe we photographers take ourselves too seriously. Since when did every photo have to be “art?” And really, art is so subjective, it’s not as if I could qualify it for everyone else anyway.
It seems to me that a snapshot is the foundation of photography. When photography became available to the masses, that’s largely how it began and took off: simple photos of everyday life, “snapshots” of loved ones and experiences we want to remember.
Those snapshots are the reason we have visual representation of decades past and they were revolutionary! Imagine prior to photography… The only way you could capture a likeness of anything was to have someone paint it. It could take weeks and even months (in some cases years) to complete one portrait or landscape. And even then, art was subjective to the one holding the brush.
Truth be told, at least 80% of the images I make are snapshots of my family. I’m not concerned with each one being expertly composed or professionally finished – in fact, I shoot them all jpeg and don’t typically edit them at all. Less than 1% will wind up displayed in my home. The rest are just for me.
And I love them. I love what they represent. Walks through the nature trail with my youngest, giggling at my husband as he rock climbs with a cast on his leg (an injury which occurred as the result of a rock climbing accident). These are the photographs I’ll cherish the most, I’ve no doubt.
So why was I so quick to dismiss someone else’s snapshot? It’s time to re-frame my thinking.