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Susan Sontag said,

“To collect photographs is to collect the world.”

(Susan Sontag, On Photography, P.3)

I couldn’t agree more. In my opinion, photography enthusiasts are pack rats. They always want to collect anything in their life, such as the girls, the pets, the views, the foods, the lights, the stories, etc. But, everyone knew that collecting everything was impossible, so, naturally, take photos became their best choice. This is the perfect solution because possessing them is sometimes expensive, sometimes illegal, and sometimes impossible.

From this point of view, people who always take pictures of everything are possessive. In other words, they are nostalgic. They afraid of losing any things. Of course, you can say it’s because of their experience in their childhood, but, it’s almost a standard excuse since Freud. But, one thing is the truth: collecting is a part of human nature.

Fundamentally, people are biochemical machines made by genes, and genes have only one purpose: to copy themselves. In order to have the chance to copy themselves as much as possible, and to ensure that the copies (our children) survive to the age at which they can continue to copy (reproduce), it creates a second need: to live longer. Yes, you can also call it the Sense of security. As you know, social resources are needed to live. The more resources there are, the more secure people feel. This is the basic reason why people always like to collect everything. When they take photos, they satisfy the psychological need to collect resources, even if it is only an illusion.

For photography enthusiasts, this is not a problem. But for the photographer, it may become a sort of hindrance. In a photography project, if the photographer is always afraid of missing any details, always shooting everything, then this set of photos cannot have an obvious theme. It becomes tedious and uninteresting. When you ask this sort of photographer, “what do you mean by these photos?” They usually can’t give a definitive answer, or, they will give you a bunch of answers because they don’t know what they want. They just conform to human nature needs. It’s not bad, but, the problem is, they just collect their own memories, and this collection is meaningful only to them. This is why many photographers are always interested in their own pictures, while others are not.

Therefore, it is necessary to learn to suppress the desire to collect. Photographers need to be rational about what we shoot. When shooting, photographers should always keep in mind the purpose of shooting and judge what should shoot and what should not. Only in this way can use photos to tell a story and express a point of view clearly. That’s why I think people always advance faster with film cameras because the film is just too expensive, it makes people always think more to make sure each film is in the right place.


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