What's the point?
I ask myself this question often. Sometimes the question is big and all encompassing, sometimes it is small and rhetorical. I am bombarded with hundreds of images a day...the news, the ads, the fashion photos, the party photos....it never ends. I shoot thousands and thousands of images a year myself, and sometimes I have to ask WHY? What is the point of all this stuff? Who cares? Is anyone looking? Do we need it?
I had a bit of an “a-ha” moment while watching Alex’s performance at school yesterday. The school always videotapes these events, so you can buy the whole show to see 30 seconds of your child’s performance, from a distance, buried in an hour and a half, for $20. I loved the costumes and the whole show, so this time I will probably spend the twenty bucks, since I had no intention of holding my arms up with my six pound camera for the entire time. Still, I planned to get some additional close-ups.
I mainly filmed the known and recognizable friends of Alex, and the son of the woman standing next to me because her video camera chose to die yesterday morning. Why does that always happen? Lucky for her, I had staked out the best spot in the house, at the back of the auditorium with a 70-200mm lens (BIG lens) so that I could see the entire stage from a nice high vantage point, and zoom in on the kids as necessary.
The prospect of making a mom and a couple of grandparents really happy for a few minutes felt pretty good. Maybe 5 people will see this little film clip. Honestly, it is not a great piece of video or photography. This work feels so small, so insignificant as to be almost meaningless to me. But it is important to her. Instead of only her memory, she has just a tiny bit more to remind her of this fleeting moment in the life of her child, when he went on stage so young and nervous, a 40 second part in a 17 year school tradition, just hoping to say his lines without messing up because he had been working on this project since February. Maybe that is enough. Now she can share her memory with loved ones who couldn’t be there and maybe with her son and his children one day in the future.
I wish I had even one tiny video like this from my childhood. I barely have the memory of such events, except for one tiny teddy bear part in a 5th grade Christmas play. I don't think my parents were even there. When photography starts to feel meaningless to me, I try to remember how much it can touch other people.
Late last night, she sent me a grateful email on behalf of her family and her son’s two 80 year old grandparents. I hadn’t even sent the video yet, but I was reminded that the smallest moments like these are so often the most treasured.