“We define the most important moments of our lives by the songs that we are playing at the time”
So for an article written from a photography point of view, why would I start it with a quote relating to music? Well I think that photography and music are intrinsically linked in our subconscious to invoke memories and passions lost in the sands of time but on the photography side of things this might not be such an obvious point.
Let me explain.
If like me, like the vast majority of you reading this, you have been listening to music most of your life. We cant escape it, we even embrace it daily.
Now, try this as a thought experiment.
Think of a tune you liked in the past. Lets say the song was your first wedding dance. The radio is on in the car and the song comes on. You are instantly taken back to that day when you and your partner took to the dance floor and proudly (if not slightly embarrassingly) danced to your favorite tune. That song has defined a moment in your life that will be forever linked to that tune. Listening to music that was played during a significant life event many years ago can trigger a deeply nostalgic emotional experience. The feeling is not in the music, but in what it reminds us of. The power of music to evoke reminiscing is shown in the movie Casablanca, where Rick forbids his bar pianist Sam ever to play “As Time Goes By,” because of the unbearable feelings of sadness and loss recalled by the song.
Over the decades I have worn out tapes, bought CD’s, lost CD’s got MP3’s and gone through all sorts of various ways of listening to my favorite tunes. Led Zeppelins ‘Stairway to Heaven’ defines the end of my school days visiting North Wales. The Beatles ‘Sgt. Pepper’ album reminds me of my cool drama teacher at school who made us tapes to listen to and lent us 7” vinyl of stuff that we must get into.
I could go on but hopefully you get the idea. These tunes are as important as the point in time that they define as they allow the mind to see those moments more clearly than if I tried to just reminisce from memory. There’s something about what the music is doing that shapes my memory in a specific way so that each time I hear the tune I can relive that memory. This is the power of music. It triggers hopefully wonderful memories and can be as good as being there again.
So now try to think about the above points in a visual context. Photography is equally as powerful a thing in my opinion and I hope you agree.
Recently in my garage I came across an old box of printed photos still in their original retail developer envelopes that you used to pick them up in back in the day before digital. Super Snaps or Max Speilman were 2 that I obviously used.! After a good hour of looking through them, I realised that these are some important moments in my life captured on photographic paper. Equally as vulnerable as the tapes or CD’s of the past, these memories are fragile in the physical form that I find them in but in my mind a more permanent record is held somewhere.
People in them who have grown up. People who are no longer with us are there and so on, but instantly im transported there with them in that time. The emotions were there, the conversations, the good times all were brought back from a single image. That’s what pictures can do just as well as music, they allow the mind to almost time travel to another space another moment that can never been visited again.
So as a photographer I feel it is my aim somehow to create future memories and emotions for me as a viewer but also for you. Ansel Adams was a musician as well as a photographer and arguably more well known for the latter and my ambition is to have someone look at one of my photographs, perhaps one that hangs on their wall and have a memory of the place they were or a time that was significant to them when they bought it or the event that the picture invokes.
I guess I’ll never know that for sure unless I get a social media post from someone but the feelings that we can create from being out in a landscape or indoors shooting a portrait of family will buy me future memories.
So hopefully you as a photographer or musician or both may read this and have a new realisation that emotion is an element of your work that you may not have appreciated or considered is happening with your photography pr music and hopefully you will consider that in future shots and compositions and the memories you can make.