Photographs not taken

If I look at this black rectangle I see a perfect moment that is imprinted in my mind. The main subject is recorded in every detail and stands out from its surrounding like no real photograph could ever record. This black shape is thus a container that is filled with my memories and I hope that all of you have similar pictures that miraculously appear when you look at this frame.

We are buried in an avalanche of photographs. All kinds of digital cameras, mobile phones and now even glasses record almost every aspect of our lives and enable us to take more photographs than ever (as previously mentioned). In the light of such an over-abundance, it seems appropriate to shine a light on the opposite: the photographs not taken. I have meant to write about photographs that were not taken for a long time. Finally, I feel inspired to do so - not only, but also - because I have just discovered that there is even a nice little book on the stories behind photographs that were not taken (The Photographs Not Taken by Will Steacy).

The reasons for not taking a photograph can be manifold. You may primarily think of technical reasons - a forgotten or malfunctioning camera, for example, or of a subject that vanished before you managed to pull out your camera. In the book The Photographs Not Taken, ethical quarrels are also cited repeatedly as the reason why the camera was put aside or not picked up. Finally, you may consciously choose not to photograph in order to experience an event or moment more deeply, or because the subject at hand can simply not be satisfactorily captured in a photograph.

Photographers may regret their missed photographs. However, I disagree with the view that "these moments passed into oblivion" (as the book review in Lens suggests). Our brain is an incredibly powerful recording device. It focuses on those aspects that attract us and blends out disturbing elements without any photoshopping at all. A moment or glimpse of something beautiful, a flash, a sparkling light, or a look can be imprinted and fixed in our brains for many years or as long as we live.  

Revisiting these recordings in the personal image gallery of my brain makes me painfully aware of the transience and rareness of such moments. Sometimes, I may therefore look at these images longingly and more often than I would wish. However, these moments have been kept and are experienced much more deeply; not despite, but BECAUSE they have not been recorded by a camera. 

2013/06/10 by Florian Freimoser
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One Comment

  1. Nice Readup, i like your "ultimate photo" :-) as it's up to the viewer to fill up the black spots ...
    Reduction is key in a time of (visual) abundance, and i also follow up along these lines.
    You might check on my own rumblings on reducing my own stuff in my "one photo a week manifesto":
    http://www.mopswerk.de/one-photo-per-week-manifesto/
    BR, Henrik

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