Claire Yaffa: Les Reves Du Coeur (Dreams Of The Heart) – Why We Photograph, Chapter 8

Claire Yaffa took her first photograph 45 years ago when her son was 18 months old and it was the beginning of her journey, first as a mother, then as a photographer. She has worked extensively for The New York Times and Associated Press. Her photographs have appeared in countless influential publications and have been exhibited at major venues in the US and around the world.

Leica Notebook, Chapter 8

Why do we photograph?  I believe the dreams of our heart lead us to images which speak to us.  In two previous chapters I wrote about Thoughts of Photographers for Philosophers and Dreamers.  Aren’t we all dreamers and with the camera we become poets.  As philosophers, we share images which express what we want to say. Thoughts of Photographers for Philosophers and Dreamers will be continuing in the next chapters of The Leica Notebook.

When looking at a photograph, does one know the photographer because of the image he has made?  Are you able to recognize the subject, the feeling and know who this person is?  A photograph is revealing, perhaps to the person taking the photograph, but also to the viewer.  Whether you are a “concerned photographer,” or fine art or portrait photographer, one makes a decision to try to confront and capture what to photograph.

A beautiful cactus plant, purchased recently, lost its identity as light and shadow transformed the reality of the plant, to shapes and colors.  Hypnotized by the different images, I returned to the plant again and again, photographing it, in awe of what I was seeing. Why do we respond the way we do?  I believe it is the dreams of our heart, les reves du coeur, when our eye and camera make us aware of the world around us. We need to express many things and as photographers we do it with our camera.  We photograph our families, friends, loved ones, life’s fragility, people in need, the impoverished, the concerns of our lives and often just the beauty of a flower, animal, scenes to record or an affirmation we were here and we saw this. We want to share it with you in the hopes you feel as I did when I took this photograph. Perhaps we photograph to protect ourselves from life’s impermanence.  Perhaps we photograph because we love what we do. Perhaps we photograph because it is our way of thinking and feeling about ourselves and a beautiful world. Perhaps we photograph because unlike the seasons, we do not come again.  Please contribute to this dialog:  Why do you photograph?

-Claire Yaffa

You can also see more of Claire’s work on her website,

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  • It’s a tough call. Why do I photograph? Firstly I enjoy the process; from putting on lenses, replacing films, winding on the shutter, taking the bottom plate off my M9 (yes, I enjoy that), holding the camera, looking through the viewfinder, composing, pressing the shutter release, post processing, developing, scanning, uploading and sharing.

    But I also love the physical act of walking around and finding interesting things to show to the rest of the world (well, not the world, mostly my Flickr contacts and Facebook/Twitter friends. I consider myself to be quite visually literate and I can appreciate beauty in the mundane, forgotten and discarded. Hopefully I people see my photos and think ‘Hey, cool, thats a really interesting shape/texture/light/colour/form/person/interaction’. I think I really shoot because I think the way I see the world is pretty cool.

  • I’ve always said that every photograph is a “self-portrait.” By seeing what a photographer chooses to photograph and how, we know if they are sheep or shepherd. If sheep, their photos further reflect whether they’re fine wool, long wool, hair or dairy. If shepherd, we intuit if they’re sensitive, mischievous, altruistic or even sane. So reflective are one’s photos of one’s soul that I once half-jokingly considered starting an online dating service in which members were asked simply to upload their 10 favorite photos. Questionnaires allow for too much manipulation and obfuscation. But someone’s photos? I’m rather certain I could play “matchmaker” based solely on what those photos tell me about the person. Thanks again, Claire, for another reflective article and another series of revealing photos…

  • Thank you Claire for another wonderful post; your pictures, and your words, always speak to the questions – and the quest for alignment – between ‘eye, head and heart’ that many of us experience behind the lens. You have a beautiful way of capturing that, holding all of what is often at play in this craft.

  • I just saw more of your images which transcend photography and become spiritual in their beauty. Thank you for responding to my photographs so that I could see yours.

  • A photograph, to me, is to preserve the memory of an emotional experience and to make a passing impression permanent. It enables me to relive the emotion that I felt when I saw the image that I wanted to record. And frequently, when I revisit the photograph over time, I discover images and features that I hadn’t noticed before, which adds to the emotional experience. Photography certainly is an art form and also an important means of communication from which we learn.

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