Seasons pass, clothing fashions and artistic styles change, people age, skyscrapers are constructed (and destroyed), rivers diverted, and coastlines eroded. And camera technology and printing techniques are developed, only to fall out of favour and be nostalgically revived at some indeterminate future.
Even the most esoteric, experimental and artistic photographs betray something of the time they're recorded and/or reproduced. That embodied history is true of any human artefact, but photography’s ubiquity makes its images the most ‘democratic’, and readily accessible link with the past.
Much is written of how photographs afford flirtations with the past; perhaps photography’s most universal quality. Whether mid-nineteenth century daguerreotype portraits costing what was once up to a week’s wage, or digital ‘selfies’ distributed instantly to a global audience at virtually no cost; the past is closer than we think. As too is 'elsewhere'.
Any transportable and readily recognisable visual representation ostensibly compresses space by bringing before viewers a scene from elsewhere. Painted landscapes, wildlife lithographs, portrait drawings, stereographed seashores, and filmed documentaries bring distant, often difficult-to-access places into the personal realm of those who may never have the opportunity to meet the people or visit the places depicted. Small wonder that the most realistic representations―photographs―dominate the contemporary 'visual landscape'.
I have the luxury of occasional respite from my carer duties, and use that time to travel as often as I can. Anyone who enjoys the privilege of travelling far afield knows that one of its many joys is sharing something of one's journey with loved ones. Photography is a pleasure that gets me out into the world, to see and experience much more than what would otherwise be available to me.
I suspect, however, that the person who appreciates my images most is my house-bound mother, whose face lights up when I return from my travels and show her the highlights. Long may that remain so.