We live in an image-priority world.
Words, for good or worse, have been slowly displaced as the privileged form of communication.
Look at any newspaper, of course the articles are built on words, but the first thing you notice about any piece of information is the image that precedes it: it may be a photo or a graphic, maybe even a cartoon, but an image will guide you and attract your attention.
Which apps are the most popular right now? Instagram, snapchat and the likes… almost no text, just images, either static or in motion.
Susan Sontag, on her seminal book On photography already said almost everything one can say about the cultural relevance of photographs, so I will just focus on the biggest cliche, which happens to be the greatest truth:
Photography stops time. A photograph is a fleeing moment fixed onto a strip of film or a precise distribution of pixels.
We need photographs to preserve and better remember what has happened, to seduce our brains with realistic or impossible forms/colors. We need them, as photographers, to see the world in different ways, to pay attention to different things.
We take photos… we can even say that we make them, as if they were a kind of plastic art. We let light into our cameras, then we transform the results with special programs or special chemical products to manipulate and liberate the images trapped into our sd cards or films. We enlarge them, we adjust their colors, we increase the levels of light and shadows and we share them with others. We print them and expose them or we send them with our cell phones.
We make photographs. But photos also make us… our collective imaginary is full of famous pictures and they condition how we perceive the world. Our own intimate self is constructed partially on photographs. Our misremembered past is held together by pictures taken by our parents, our friends, ourselves… and we create fluid narratives on top of those immutable flash of frozen time.