Thinking and Sharing

Photographs and Our Lives: Connecting Past, Present, and Future

Photographs and Our Lives: Connecting Past, Present, and Future

December 13, 2017

It was a delightful time at FDU while studying “A History of Photography from Dagurreotype to Digital” from Professor Noah Epstein. Below is my “Final Portfolio Review and Essay.”

Our class explored important figures from the history of photography to daguerreotype to digital. As we can see from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Daguerreotype,” early photographic inventions were merely marvelous to people. However, people with intellectual curiosity have changed their surroundings and the world through their cameras. Some photos have attracted public attention, getting more dramatic effects than anything else. Also, some photographers have dedicated their lives to photography criticism to respect photography as an area of art like other arts. Some people have played an enormous role in the development of humanity by recording and accusing the world with cameras and devotion to their own beliefs. The advancements of these photographs are beginning to develop into new forms of art as soon as they are combined and fused with other fields of art, and now it is impossible to predict how the digital age will evolve. In the digital age, where anyone can easily take pictures, express them, and easily communicate them to the public, I wonder how professional photographers will build their professional domain and influence the public. Still, photography continues to develop and evolve.

As I mentioned before, in the early days of the invention of photography, people stayed in expressing strange things with mere inventions. However, some have contributed to the historical record by communicating with the public by changing and recording the world. Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner were pioneers in realizing the purpose of documentary and photojournalism.

This photograph shows one of the habits I keep steadily recording my life around me. In 1988, I did an actual event in an organization where I led the group. After a long time, this single photograph proved an important event in Korea. Gardner and Brady, who recorded the Civil War, had significant influence by systematically recording important events in history. I made detailed records of the event at the time; although not a major historical event, it remains essential in at least one area.

On the other hand, Alfred Stieglitz cannot be ruled out as a person who has made photographs become a genre of art. At the same time, he was a street photographer who recorded people’s daily lives. There was another photographer with the same viewpoint, overlapping with Stieglitz. He is Eugène Atget, which records the neglected streets of Paris and the buildings that will soon disappear.

This photo contains a couple living in an isolated, deep, high mountain village. The couple, weak enough to rely on canes, sits in front of their house in the afternoon sun. The woman holds a cigarette in her hand, and the man is opening her mouth hard to breathe. A small dog sits next to them, and a doghouse uses a large yellow barrel. The dog bowl makes of stone that is often found in the area, sitting heavily between the walls of the house and the dog house. This photo of me is linked to the ordinary people of the streets of Paris by Eugène Atget.

I took much time and tried to get one of these photographs in the best position. I waited for the most suitable time to shoot. I had only a smartphone, so I shot it in my mind without much skill. I liked that place. It was the most beautiful and noble place I have ever experienced. This picture reminds me of “The Hand of Man, 1902” by Alfred Stieglitz.

I think Paul Strand tried to show the city’s health and hope for the future centering on Manhattan. I see some of the Empire State Building on my condo rooftop in Manhattan 30th Street. Every time I am proud that I belong to New York City, the center of the world. I took this photograph of the building going on for almost 100 years. Though not as much as Paul Strand felt it 100 years ago, New York City is still the center of the world.

An environmentalist, Ansel Adams put his magnificent natural beauties in his camera like decorative paintings. The whole island Lanzarote has been UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1993. However, this photograph shows a different region producing vines using volcanic rocks. The uniqueness of nature is genuinely abundant.

Edward Weston was a photographer who had stepped up his photographic art by expressing nature and objects beautifully. For example, he took fruits and vegetables as a still life, which linked to Laura Letinsky‘s work.

Timothy O’Sullivan was a documentary photographer who recorded the Civil War, but after the end of the war, he moved west and recorded nature. He was the first photographer to understand nature architecturally. I had the experience of going up to a mountain and looking analytically at the spectacular view before my eyes. At the end of the screen, the sky and the sea were in contact, and there were multi-storied roads and dots along the massive valley from the coast. Moreover, the ridges were layered together and forming a vast valley. At the bottom of the valley is a small lake, tinted green. On top of the mountain were all kinds of flowers, including cactuses. It was like a giant orchestra of nature. O’Sullivan would have felt the greatness of nature in the western wilderness. So to convey to us the belief that humans and nature can harmonize together.

There is a section like “Body Farm during Sally Mann‘s work.” The photographs were taken to reveal the cause of the deaths of the body. This photo shows an abandoned house that was left unchecked 30 years ago. This house was a family house where a decent mental hospital was abandoned for decades, and it is about 100 feet from the hospital building. I forcibly opened the door and went into the house. In a room that seemed used as a suite, the things of the forgotten person were left untouched. Such neglected things seemed to tell the situation of the time of the forgotten person. We can read many stories through a single picture. Sally Mann’s “Body Farm” section tells the dead story.

Laura Letinsky is working on people’s everyday life elaborately and beautifully. On winter nights, firewood burns at the fireplace in the living room. Families enjoy a good conversation while watching TV or listening to music near the fireplace. However, people do not pay much attention to burning firewood. This photograph shows warm attention to the firewood that people do not care about others.

This photo indicates the spring of my birth home, where I was born and grew up. In the backyard of the house, the Koreans call it Jangdokdae. Koreans make various kinds of spices for healthy and delicious food through this method. For this purpose, there are big pots for storing soy sauce, miso, and gochujang. Historically, it plays a significant role in Korean food. However, as urbanization has taken place, these kindergartens are almost disappearing. Therefore, it may be a clue to my grandson’s understanding of Korean culture long after this photo of me.

The photography does not exist just for the moment of pressing the shutter. The photographs have a valuable meaning if they can share what they see and feel with people connected to them. Furthermore, if it could connect to future generations, it would become even more meaningful. Edgar Allan Poe recalls what he saw when people first invented photographic techniques. As we study the history of photography through this class, we have learned that photographers have not limited the meaning of their work at that moment. Instead, they pressed the shutter for their community, for their loved ones. Moreover, as citizens of the earth, they burned their faiths and talents through their cameras’ tools to love, protect, and preserve nature as connecting past, present, and future.