In the art world, the value of a work to outsiders is just as much of a currency as a dollar is. Supply and demand works just the same as it does in business. Art is a commodity just as anything else. It is this way of thinking that sets apart many a photographer. The ones that shoot for the moment, and those striving to leave a legacy. That's where I found myself, waiting for that perfect moment at sunset where I would capture a moment never to be repeated.
Except it had been, and will be again a billion times. There was a time when I thought of people as just bothersome things that kept walking into my landscape shots, but now my shots feel empty without them. That man on the Vespa riding by with his hipster beard, and wool hat is unique to this day and age. The sunset, now behind me, will look roughly the same in ten thousand years. How many people will shoot it, I cannot estimate without going into exponents, which really don't belong in a photography blog.
When we think of shooting history, we often think of ruins, battle sites, rusted machinery, and decaying buildings. I like shooting such things, but what I'm really shooting with them is the how they exist in the present. The real paradox is that if I really want to shoot some history, I need to shoot life in the present. Every single historical photograph was shot at that moment in time, as physics demands. Few if any of them were sunsets. I'm certain that many sunsets were photographed throughout history, but as they have changed little since the dawn of photography, there's not an awful lot of demand for them in the history books.
Lovely sunset, but without the girls, and the tractor it's nothing. It's only 1/125th of a second of their lives, but one that will be remembered. ©2014 Troy More
Cameras have been ubiquitous for nearly a century now, but in hindsight I think we may have misused them by wasting so much film on smiles, and uncomfortable dress clothes. My own family is a perfect example. How many photos do I have of us standing around birthday cakes with forced smiles? Boxes full, and I treasure every one of them. How many do I have of us all covered in dust and grease while we ate dinner on a fold out table in the wheat stubble while taking a break from a 16hr work day? None. Did I capture the lineup of trucks waiting at the grain elevator in Regent Mb (Pop. 3) while my Dad and the rest sat in the grass chatting, having a coffee, and a smoke? Nope. These aren't just moments gone from my life, they are moments lost to history, because these little rural grain elevators are long gone.
Photos of historic events rarely tell us very much about actual history. Not of the everyday lives of the people who lived there. Real history are the shots of people eating in a restaurant, where everyone is smoking. The police call boxes that remind us of life before 911 brought instant help. The fashions, the ethnicity, and the habits of a crowd of everyday people on a sidewalk going about their business. That is real history, and in time it will be what people yearn for when they explore the past, not my sunsets.
Those whimsical moments that you think nothing of may be gone before you know it. The cafes and cinemas of today may be tomorrow's drive-in restaurants and movies, and they'll be gone so gradually that you won't notice until it's too late.
Sunsets come every 24hrs. New flowers bloom every spring. The Great Wall will likely still be there in two thousand years, and you will have a lifetime of opportunities to shoot them all, unlike the time your kid decided to try really hard and wound up falling asleep at the table studying. Those moments don't come around again, and they are the ones you will truly treasure.
Don't take this as a dig on landscape photography. It's not. Just don't let the sunsets distract you from history. Shoot real life as it happens, because it only happens once. That 1/125th of a second of the past is what people in the future will want to see.