What Is Photography Good For?

Nothin!

Well, no. Not nothing. Something! At least something! This is a tough question. At the very least, photography is good for the preservation of patterns of light. In my opinion, it's good for a whole lot more. Here are a couple of reasons to like photography.

Science!

Scientists use photography all of the time. Telescopes are basically super-expensive cameras designed to take photographs of things that are really really really far away1. Other times scientists use special cameras to look at things really really close, like blood cells or molecules. Scientists developed the first lenses for these reasons - not for mere photographic curiosity. Sometimes photographers use normal cameras to document their process or capture information that doesn't require a microscope or a telescope to see.

Scientists can put cameras in places that are too dangerous for humans, like outer-space, near a cheetah, right next to an explosion, or near another angrier cheetah.

For scientists, photography can do things that the human eye can't do.

But you (probably) arn't a scientist!

Art and Portraits!

Back in the day, people paid a lot of money to have their portrait painted by professional artists. This is generally how we know what really old people looked like (Sometimes somebody carved a statue, other times historians just guess).

Painting is good for more than portraits, painting is art! Photography is great for portraits - like way better than paying a painter to tell you to "hold still" for 7 hours - but is photography art? Most people seem to think it is, as it fulfills all the functions of art. It can allow one to express themselves, it can provide social or political commentary, it can give a cheap hotel lobby a little character - all the trappings of art.

But....

Warning, talking about the following paragraph among friends might cause your friends to consider you "pretentious".

There is some debate amongst philosophers if photography can be called "art" or if it is only "representation". The basic argument against photography as art is this: [[[]]]. The basic counter-argument of photography as art is: Hey, shut up.

Journalism!

Photography is arguably the most powerful tool for capturing moments of time. Journalists use photography to bring us news and help illustrate articles all around the world. Photography's impact on journalism cannot be understated - it's basically the most important thing to happen to journalism since the invention of recycled newsprint. Seriously. One day a journalist was like "Woah, dude, this is huge!". That dude was right.

Imaging a history book, a magazine, a newspaper, or even the internet without any photographs. If nothing else, it's less interesting.

Memories!

You arn't a journalist, artist, scientist, or really an -ist of any kind! You are probably a student ("studentist"). You probably have a family. That family probably goes on vacations. Vacations that create wonderful experiences that one can't help but meticulously catalog and archive. Historically, such cataloging has taken place of "Annoying dinner-table stories that you have heard a million times", but all of that changed when photography showed up.

Now it's "Annoying dinner-table stories that you have heard a million times, plus an after-dinner slideshow of every other minute of last month's trip to the bahamas".

Awesome!

Photographs are an easy, low-effort, cheap, and durable method for preserving moments of time for later reminiscing.

That reminiscing may involve you clutching a box of polaroids of an ex-lover while crying in a bathtub after a break-up. You may then toss said box of polaroids into a fire in a misguided attempt to 'move-on' before immediately regretting your actions and rapidly fishing them out. The pain of the burns is nothing compared to the pain of your broken heart. You can't say I didn't warn you.

In other words, photographs can be emotionally powerful. Most everybody has at least a small collection of personal, emotion-infused photographs. They could be photos of children kept in a wallet, or of the summer in Europe that changed your life, or every photograph that your Mom has taken of you in an attempt to preserve your fleeting childhood.

You don't need artistic training to create emotion-infused photographs that you will cherish for the rest of your life. All you need is to have experiences worth remembering.

Living in the Moment

Nobody can see the streets of a city like a street photographer, and few appreciate beautiful sunsets like a obsessive landscape photographer do.

There is a strong argument that photography can remove one from their current setting - the act of capturing a moment destroying a moment. There is something to this - imagine vacationers who take obligatory push-the-leaning-tower-of-pisa photos before moving on to the next architectural wonder to mindlessly catalog.

There has even been at least one study that demonstrates who take photographs of an experience have worse memories of it!

The process of "taking pictures" may remove one from their settings, but the process of photography doesn't.Photography isn't about cameras or pressing buttons or fiddling with settings. It's about light, and the world around you. Good photographers don't have their heads buried in the settings of the camera. They are constantly looking all around them, watching people, observing patterns and movements, even listening (it helps!). Photography has the power to turn boring walks into exciting adventures.

Cats

Photography is great for capturing your impossibly cute feline friend, adding some silly text, and posting this photo to the internet.

1 I mean, like, really far away.

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