All of us at one time or another ask the same question: “Is my life meaningful?”
We fear the thought of an existence that starts on a birthday we celebrate year after year until we perish, leaving seemingly nothing behind. We struggle to find meaning in everything we do, however trivial.
And since we have difficulty defining meaning ourselves, we look to others to do it for us. What better way to validate what we do than to have it witnessed and appreciated by others?
A Witness to Our Lives
Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” But it is also true that, for most, the unobserved life is not worth living.
It’s been that way since prehistoric man first scrawled on a cave wall in the South of France and said, “Look at me. I did this.”
For the last 150 years, photography has added meaning to countless lives.
It would have been incredibly difficult for Gandhi, for example, to have made his life as meaningful without photography. His power was magnified by those photographers who brought us images of an almost naked, frail old man defying the biggest empire of his time.
Of course, Gandhi was an exceptional person. What about the middle manager with a wife and two kids who lives around the corner from your house? Where does he find meaning in his life?
Increasingly, he finds meaning in being photographed by friends, family and passersby — and ending up on Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. Who knows, he might even go viral — and his simple, ignored life might suddenly seem quite important.
What started with “look at me, I killed a bison” cave drawings has evolved to today’s “look at me, I learned to Jet Ski during vacation” Facebook photos.
Springing into Meaning
In between Gandhi and your neighbor in middle management, there are thousands upon thousands of lives that have sprung into meaning because of photography.
That man in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square. The Vietnamese monk who set himself on fire to protest the war. The man holding his bandage as he walked away from the London bus explosion. Or that woman who held her baby after an earthquake.
Or even Paris Hilton. What would be the meaning of her life without photography?
Fear no more the darkness of oblivion. Photography is here.