The transitory nature of life scares us. That which we have done or seen, we may never do or see again. The urge to take pictures, to own and fix our experiences in physical form helps us to overcome the fear of being mortal and traveling through time.
Graham Clarke beautifully described the immortalising power of
photography: “It replicates what we have lost, and in one sense suggests a deep psychological need to record, retain and to classify the world of our actions. If the photograph is ‘light-writing’ it is also our signature on that world”.2
When we use photography as an attempt to make us immortal, we are
continuing the oldest traditions of art, but it is not just the temporary nature of our lives that photography helps to counter. In our post-religion culture the reassuring idea that someone is watching over us, that our actions are important and that we will be judged according to predefined rules has gone. We have been left bereft of a sense of divine order.
In his 1999 novel satirising fundamentalist Christianity, Not the End of the World, Christopher Brookmyre described the human experience of life as:
The helpless desolation of solitude.
The conspired illusion of order.
The dance we call morality.
No meaning, only incident; and