The Power Of Photography: Capturing Emotions With Camera

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Photographs help people preserve memories with its technology, but what is actually happening is much more interesting when thought about in more depth. A moment in time is captured forever, so long as the photograph is kept in good shape. It is the closest people can possibly come to time travel. Photographs give people a window into the past. They can see exactly what certain things looked like rather than have to rely on descriptions. A deeper meaning behind a photograph, like a person’s emotions, in that one quick moment in time, is preserved forever. 

Photos can evoke emotions too, like how photographer Jacob Riis used the power of photography to show the world how poor people lived in New York around the turn of the 20th century. Photos can also serve practical purposes, like making it easier to show someone what something looks like when trying to sell it. All of this power behind photographs can be reflected back into people when they look at the photos. Lance Morrow argues in his essay that there are lessons that can be learned each time a person observes a photo (Morrow).

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Morrow hit on a few different themes in his essay, all of which circle around the idea of the power that photographs potentially have. He wrote about how photographs can tap right into a person’s emotions and mind rather than stir thought. It can kick up emotions and vivid memories, with those memories sometimes being viewed through distorted lenses. Powerful photographs capture moments in time that could easily evoke a strong reaction from anyone seeing the photograph. It could leave a lasting first impression on people or could traumatize people who have either seen the photo already or who witnessed what was in the photo as it actually happened. These moments live on forever, whether for better or worse.

Morrow wrote about how pictures put moments into rectangular prisons. So many moments in life go unrecorded and become lost forever. Those moments are free to die and rest peacefully, so to speak. Some moments cannot find that freedom though because they become caught on camera and then enter the public domain and into the public mind and conscience. They can even eventually go into the history books. A moment like a Viet Cong soldier being executed in the head would have been horrible but then forgotten forever. It instead is a traumatic moment that lives on and has been seen by multiple generations now. Escaping reminders of the past can become harder with photographs having the power to be such a stark reminder of things that once happened and will always live on so strongly.

There can be a distinction between photographs and the type of photography that is done. These different forms of photography can have different effects on people and can serve different purposes. Morrow writes about the need for photojournalists to feed the masses with new stories through the use of photography. These photos can take on a very different feel as they age. The photo of Lee Harvey Oswald being assassinated was dramatic when it came out but had the feeling of breaking news to it. This event just happened, and people were still learning about it and processing it. Now that the photo has been in the public domain for a few decades, and most people know about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the subsequent killing of Oswald, it serves a different purpose when people see it.

People can make the best out of photographs if they take the time to figure out how to stop and think through what they are looking at instead of just riding the raw emotions that are being tapped. Taking a closer look at photos can also reveal things that would have otherwise gone unobserved and then would have been lost to time. There are plenty of things that could wind up in a photo, especially if there is a crowd of people. There could be something interesting hidden in plain sight in the photo that is not obvious because the attention typically goes elsewhere. 

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