The meaning of photography – are we more or less connected?

On Sunday, I spoke about the bombing of the Boston Marathon and of the capture of its perpetrators in the context of shared and collective image.  This touches on the profound question of what is the fundamental meaning of photography and imagery.  And perhaps not surprisingly, this takes us, in turn, to the profounder still question of what it means to be human.  This seems like a good jumping off point to take on these deeper questions; so I will attempt to address them over the course of several posts.

For me, these questions relate to an ongoing discourse (argument) that I have been having with a dear and brilliant friend about whether people (the word young is silently implied as a modifier to the word people – those whipper snappers!) of today are more or less connected than in the past.  If you see someone in a store not interacting with the people immediately around him or her, but instead texting and exchanging images with a cadre of distant friends has (s)he become abstract and disconnected or is (s)he more connected by virtue of his or her cyber network?

To ask the question differently, is the cell phone ruining the young people of today?  My immediate response is reflexive.  Well, we’ve heard that question before.  Before the cell phone it was the internet, before the internet it was the video game, before the video game it was television, before television it was radio, before radio it was the bicycle.  Yes, you heard me right – the bicycle ruining the moral fiber of society, corrupting young people to a life of decadent intellectual stagnation and decay.  Somewhere between accusing my friend of being a Miniver Cheevy* and pointing out that science and technology do what they have always done – namely present expanded options, I suddenly realize that this is really a pretty profound question, deeply engrained in our biology, and touching on our very meaning.

So, let’s consider this question of greater or lesser connectivity in the context of photography and the meaning of image, and image as the meaning of mankind.  We have previously discussed the very important point that the human eye is not a camera and the human brain is not storing a RAW, TIFF, or JPEG image.  Photographs and images in general must be considered in the context of human neurobiology. To proceed further with these questions of meaning, over the course of several postings I need (want?) to consider.

  • Image and the concept of the meme
  • Image and memetic evolution
  • Image and the meaning of the sacred

Dangerously, this all sounds complicated.  However, like all elegant knowledge, we in the end recognize it as pretty straight forward.  Oh, and please remember that this is my opinion and perspective.

* Miniver Cheevy


Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
   Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
He wept that he was ever born,
   And he had reasons.
Miniver loved the days of old
   When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
   Would set him dancing.
Miniver sighed for what was not,
   And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
   And Priam’s neighbors.
Miniver mourned the ripe renown
   That made so many a name so fragrant;
He mourned Romance, now on the town,
   And Art, a vagrant.
Miniver loved the Medici,
   Albeit he had never seen one;
He would have sinned incessantly
   Could he have been one.
Miniver cursed the commonplace
   And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;
He missed the mediæval grace
   Of iron clothing.
Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
   But sore annoyed was he without it;
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
   And thought about it.
Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
   Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
   And kept on drinking.




This entry was posted in Personal Photographic Wanderings.

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  1. […] age is upon us. You don’t really need to embrace any of this.  It will happily call you Minivar Cheevy and  leave you […]