Friday, March 5, 2010

Why do I take pictures?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I take pictures, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two reasons.

First, like most people I take pictures to record my memories of people and events. I’ve done this since my first pocket camera on my first trip to Europe. The desire to preserve my stories is why I have so many shelves of photo albums, detailing my daughter’s life and nearly every trip I’ve ever taken.

The following pictures tell the story of an event during Erinna's high school graduation trip to Cancun. On a day trip to the ruins at Chichen-Itza, we stopped for a swim in a nearby giant sinkhole.
Sinkhole near Chichen-Itza
The sinkhole was gorgeous and deep. People were lined up to dive off the perch at one side, and Erinna joined them.

Diving at a sink hole
Erinna did a beautiful dive — that tipped slightly as she neared the water.

The result? Huge bruises on the backs of both legs.

The second reason is a little more complex. I take pictures because, for me, taking a picture completes my enjoyment. C. S. Lewis wrote in "Reflections on the Psalms," “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation." This is how I feel about photography — it is the consummation of my experience.

Lewis further says, “…just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious?’” This too is a part of my photography — “See? Isn’t it beautiful?” By "it," I mean the subject in the picture, not the picture itself. The picture is the means for me to share something that I find awesome, beautiful, or simply intriguing.

My cat Prune

The green green eyes of my cat Prune.

Sunlight in the redwoods

The sunlight filtering through the trees in the California redwoods.

The bell tower in Split, Croatia

The bells ringing in the bell tower in Split, Croatia.

What did I learn?
  • The best photographers can combine both of these goals in their picture-taking. I'm not there yet.
  • Each time I take a picture, I need to be aware of what goal I'm trying to achieve. Not doing so often causes me to miss achieving either goal. Focusing on one goal greatly increases my chances for success.


  1. Pam, Did you go to Split?? when and what was the occasion? Sharon

  2. In 2005, Erinna and I spent 3 weeks in Europe. We spent 3 nights in Trogir, and from there made day trips to Split and Dubrovnik.