Claire Yaffa: Leica Notebook, Thoughts of Photographers, Dreamers and Philosophers, Chapter 44

Claire Yaffa took her first photograph 49 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.

Do we as photographers, photograph our life? Do we photograph our hopes and our dreams? Do our photographs reveal who we are? Do others become aware of the person who has taken the photograph, and share his feelings? Why do we photograph with the camera in our hands? What do we see? What do we feel? As we live our lives, family, friends, events, and reportages become photographs. Do we care about what we are seeing? Why do we bring the camera to our eyes and release the button? We are aware this moment will not last forever. The photograph helps us to remember the people we care about, the beauty which surrounds us and those special moments in time.

Barthes, the author of Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography was always fascinated with photography. After the death of his mother, which was very difficult for him, he spoke in an interview about his thoughts about photography, “If photography is to be discussed on a serious level, it must be described in relation to death.” He added, “It’s true that a photograph is a witness, but a witness of something that is no more.” He believed the photograph bears witness essentially to his own subjectivity. For him, the photograph was not just a record of something that is absent now, but “a reality in a past state … a record of what has been.” Will this moment appear again? Possibly it will be remembered as our subjects are not eternal. As we take photographs, our thoughts and feelings are etched on to the film or camera. It is who we are and whom we hope to become. We continue to search why we photograph.

Photographs help us to remember the past. When we lift the camera to our eye, we are in the present. We hope to capture the image. It compels us to take a photograph. It is a way of reaffirming our existence. We are here now. Photographs enable us to feel we will never be lost and also be remembered. Barthes equated the photograph as an affirmation of existence, “the photograph does not say what is no longer, but only what has been.”

– Claire Yaffa

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

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