Sunday, August 14, 2011

Focus on photography week - the Mona Lisa

It's "Focus on photography week" here - I did the same thing last year (here is one of the posts).  I have found that my favorite season for photography is summer - I love shooting insects and flowers and my Bachsters, all in the glorious summer light.  In fact, I rarely do any shooting in the cold winter months.  So, since I've got photography on the brain right now, I thought this would be a perfect week for all things photog-related!

A few years ago, I was reading a photography book by Nick Kelsh (I think it was this one: How to Photograph Your Family).  In this book, the author poses a very intriguing question: would Mona Lisa's parents rather have a picture of their daughter or would they rather have the Mona Lisa, of course painted by Leonardo da Vinci.

My first reaction was, of course her parents would rather have the Mona Lisa, a priceless, famous, beloved, perfect masterpiece by one of history's greatest artists.  But, as I pondered the question more, I started re-thinking my original reaction.  Yes, the Mona Lisa is exceptional, but then again, so is photography.  With photography, you can capture a precise moment in time, as it truly was, without the artist's intervention (well, a photographer has means of intervention too, but not like a painting), and every time you look at that photo, you will be reminded of your life and the subject's life at that moment.  It's really a very magical thing we hold in our hands, when we hold a photograph. 

On top of the perfectly captured moment, we also have the privilege of taking lots of pictures, from different angles, at different times of the day, with different backgrounds (something that digital photography has made much easier).  I don't think Leonardo da Vinci had such luxury at his hands: once he started his portrait, if he wanted to make major changes in the perspective, angles, lighting, etc., it might have meant just starting over from scratch.  Perhaps Mona Lisa's parents would want a painting, something that was created in a meaningful, deliberate, thoughtful way.  Of course, I believe most professional photographers would argue that they compose their shots with the same attention to detail as the painting maestros.

I must admit that I am a delete-phobe.  I save almost every picture, especially if it's of my Bachsters.  And over time, I have come to thank myself for that, because even the ones that are blurry, or uninteresting, or show clutter in the background have becomes treasures.  I love them all, because they remind of first dates and wedding dates. They remind me what it was like to have a newborn baby.  They remind me of a time when we had a diaper changing table.  They remind me how fleeting time is.


So, which would you choose: the Mona Lisa or a photograph? 
I think I've made my choice!


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