Photography, for me, aims at the ephemeral. There is endless motion in the world, its causes infinite. And yet there are the chaotic streams and eddies that build up our life in the world. A photograph stops a moment of that burbling activity, pulling it into view.
In Sontag’s On photography [(1977), p. 80], she writes: “The contingency of photographs confirms that everything is perishable; the arbitrariness of photographic evidence indicates that reality is fundamentally unclassifiable. Reality is summed up in an array of casual fragments—an endlessly alluring, poignantly reductive way of dealing with the world.” The work of a photographer, then, is to put within the frame of the image a moment of the onrushing reality, an image with an internal structure that implies the intentionality behind the image, that it is not just a random click of the shutter (even though such images are also slices of the endless flow).
Sontag views photography through a moral lens, though, that interprets photographs as a kind of imposition, a violation of reality. This is an unnecessarily restrictive view. We all experience moments of vision in our daily lives that remain with us as memories: a place, an effect of light, a person on the street. These are fleeting and often hardly noted consciously. They are the material with which we bring a form to our thoughts. Photography is a means of making these moments an element of our consciousness, of allowing reflection on the passing flow.