John Suler's Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche

The Good Capture

You’ve heard people say it: “Good Capture!” Did you ever wonder what that expression is about? Or how about some of the other expressions often associated with photography: loading the camera, aiming, taking a shot. Do we, perhaps unconsciously, associate photography with something like hunting?

In her book On Photography, Susan Sontag describes photography as a tool of power. In a predatory way, photographers scan their territory, stop, shoot, move on, and later display their collection of trophies for others to see. They appropriate, tame and master the situation by visually capturing and preserving it. They isolate a moment of time out of its connectedness to other moments, separate it from its environment and a larger reality, freeze it in taxidermy fashion, impose their own interpretation and viewpoint on it. By fixating that moment, they keep things the way they are and attempt to prevent the inevitability of change. They offer proof that they were there, that this thing happened, that this thing existed. At the very least, by recording and interpreting an event, they put themselves in a relationship to the world that feels like knowledge, and, therefore, power.

That’s a rather fascinating and intense viewpoint. A “good” capture might also be the photograph that takes possession of and portrays something important about the photographer. They capture their relationship to the subject: what they like, think, and feel about it. They preserve, in some cases even tame, something about their lives and personalities. In that sense, perhaps it indeed is “good.”

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Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche