When you look at a photo, the photo may remind you of something, of a time, a place, or an event. When a picture does that, evokes a visceral response, it then holds some power over the viewer.
I recently learned the story behind the photo called "Migrant Mother," made during the Great Depression, of a woman and her two (actually three) children. I bring this up because that photo is iconic and is one of the best representations of a picture that evokes a visceral response. So often is that image used to remind us of one of the most challenging times in America, that most of us can see that image in our mind's eye.
Most of us make snapshot photos, which are great in their own right. Hey, you want to remember that person, place, or thing. Snapshot photos are for the maker, their close friends, which is a wonderful way to share and connect. At some point, some of us begin to look at photography differently. There is a skill that can be developed and nurtured, for sure. That comes with practice and perseverance. There is also a mindset that develops, a state of thought seeking to take a photo beyond a symbol of one's own past. It is a sense of creating something that total strangers can look at to find a connection in some way. Photographers of all skill levels do this regularly; a pretty flower, a beautiful sunset, a lovely landscape. This way of connecting through a picture is what gives value to the photo. Nothing else does.
If there were a holy grail of photography, it might be the photo that becomes an iconic representation of a point in history, such as "Migrant Mother." As a photographer, I know that the not-so-secret desire of creating a picture that others look at, have a visceral response to, and remember, is an elusive pursuit. With chaos, turmoil, division, illness, and death all around, it would seem easy to find plenty of scenes representing this point in history, which we are experiencing now. It is not.
The photo above is from a small town not far from me. The chances of it becoming iconic are slim, and I have no illusions, history will decide. I had passed this spot often and had always thought that the mailboxes all lined up would be fun to photograph. If you look at my work, you will see this style repeated in other photos. It's a fun way to frame a picture, and the connection might come from a person who knew a row of mailboxes like that as a child. As I moved around the area, getting different points of view, I hadn't noticed the name of the street. It was only in the last few frames that the street sign was in the field of view. Then I thought, this is maybe something more people will relate to: Hope. The dirt road of life we all travel at some time, the mailboxes that allow us to connect and communicate, The sign of Hope, for the future, that we all share. These are the things we have in common. We have no idea what next week, next month, or next year will bring us. But no matter who you are or what you believe in, we can all have and share in our Hope for a better future.
Thank you for reading.