Ephemeral Photographs

Habitually, we think of photographs under two headings:  the timeless image (“Art”) and the “snapshot”.   We know of course that beautiful pictures can be created “accidentally” even when the photographer’s sole intent was to get a picture of Uncle Pat (or, more likely, his small children) on the beach: look at that lovely silhouette  (underexposed) against the red sky (over-saturated) .  Equally, photographers of my skill level know how easy it is to aspire to timeless imagery but capture only a  mundane moment of nothing in particular.   These are just accidental trespasses.


What I find more interesting is the type of picture I pretentiously call “photemeral”.  Photemeral images are consciously constructed “artifacts” created to isolate or reflect a moment of visual interest.  However, they don’t aspire to absolute, timeless  validity.  Their aesthetic value depends on a context – sometimes of place,  sometimes of “theme”,  but above all of time.  In a collection of pictures of Georgian doorways  the value of each image is magnified by its neighbors.  A photo-essay on the jungles of New Guinea is informed and enriched by the accompanying narrative.  Above all, a series of images, or even a single image,  can be significant (photemeral) just because it evokes a concrete singularity in time or place.  We wouldn’t exhibit these images in a gallery.  We wouldn’t hang them on our walls.  Even so,  we feel our world is expanded by seeing them.


the ephemeral in the timeless


Online, “timeless” photographs are best showcased in a gallery.  For photemeral images, a blog is an ideal medium.  It reflects their conditional, transient significance.  Every masterpiece was taken at a specific time and place, but without seeing some of the 99 images taken and not selected we frequently have no sense of the time and place.  The photemeral image is happy to rub shoulders with its neighbors.




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