Why we make photographs?

Zhihui Yu (Yvette)

“The expression ‘to take a photo,’ in the sense of recording a photo image with any kind of camera……We have another expression, ‘to make a photograph’, which implies that a photograph is an intentional artefact, something composed, something requiring an intervention with a human-designed technology, not a slice of nature already there just waiting to be taken”

——Martin Irvine

We are now commonly regarding photography as a format of art, and can represent unique and illustrate the exact existence of certain things. “…… the nineteenth century desire to explore, record and catalogue human experience, both at home and abroad, encouraged people to emphasis photography as a method of naturalistic documentation”. There was a conflict and concern that whether photography would replace portrait or painting at the very beginning, while as we can see photographs becomes more and more “ubiquitous” in all kinds of format.

Not only because of the enhancement and perfection of photographing technology and equipment, but with the exploitation and intensification of photography’s social function, people intended to transfer their lens from home to abroad. I myself love making photographs, and I am interested in visually representing something in as many ways as possible, to reach as many fields and as many different forms as possible.


“I wanted to photograph clouds to find out what I had learned in forty years about photography. Through clouds to put down my philosophy of life – to show that (the success of) my photographs (was) not due to subject matter – not to special trees or faces, or interiors, to special privileges – clouds were there for everyone…”

—— Alfred Stieglitz

Photography can be a representation of love. Photographers usually conduct their affection and communication with their lovers through camera lens. The series of ‘O’Keeffe’ by modern photographer are a series of photograph masterpieces that illustrates extreme romance and tenderness. Alfred Stieglitz (1864 – 1946) was an American photographer and modern art promoter who was instrumental over his fifty-year career in making photography an accepted art form. O’Keeffe was the muse Stieglitz had always wanted. He photographed O’Keeffe obsessively between 1918 and 1925 in what was the most prolific period in his entire life. During this period he produced more than 350 mounted prints of O’Keeffe that portrayed a wide range of her character, moods and beauty.

And in this specific photograph, O’Keeffe looks like a sound statue with a downward sight and upward hands, which forms a movement of visual reverse and make this image full of tension and strength. Her gesture shows power and calmness at the same time. And from this photograph, we can feel the strong intimation and connection between the model and the photographer, O’Keeffe gave Alfred her total trust, and simultaneously, Alfred devoted his love and energy to the her when ‘making this photograph’.


“If you are interested in mass communication, then you have to stop thinking of yourself as a photographer. We live in a post-photographic world. If you are interested in photography, then you are interested in something — in terms of mass communication — that is past. I am interested in reaching as many people as possible.”

——Tim Hetherington

This photo was shot some day in September, 2017. And as we can see from it, there is a soldier rest in Restrepo, wearing his uniform. It won the 2007 World Press Photo of the Year on Feb. 7th, 2008. And the comment that given by the board member Gary Knight was “This image represents the exhaustion of a man – and the exhaustion of a nation”.

Authenticity and making a picture authentic is obviously important in documentary photos and journalism photos. I was totally impressed by this photo when I first saw it, when you look deeply into the soldier’s appearance and facial expression, you can feel the exhaustion and darkness even from this picture. For me, that is the magical power and uniqueness of photograph. Thanks to its authenticity, you can feel ‘the reality’ and ‘the realness’ regardless of time, space and language differences.


This is a random photo I download from the internet after I typed in ‘snapchat photos’ on google. With the development of technology and these photo shooting applications, there are more and more people prefer taking their selfies utilizing this kind of apps rather than regular cameras. We can see the girl in the photo, who has a pair of big and bright eyes, with cute pink blushes on her face, and when she opens her mouth, there’s a rainbow coming out of it.

Like Eastlake predicted, “……photograph is a democratic means of representation and that the new facts will be available to everyone.” (Liz Wells, Derrick Price) We are nowadays all available of tools to ‘take a photo’, however, we are so much used to this kind of technology in our daily life and usually simply regard it as a tool to capture our daily routine rather than the beauty around us. And this is the problem of social media and socialized photography that we need to consider.



  1. Alfred Stieglitz (19 September 1923). “How I came to Photograph Clouds”. Amateur Photographer and Photography: 255.
  2. Wells, Liz, ed. Photography: A Critical Introduction. 5th ed. London; New York: Routledge, 2015. Excerpts.
  3. Martin Irvine, Introduction to Photography and the Optical Image. Communication and Technology Program, Georgetown University.
  4. Lister, Martin, ed. The Photographic Image in Digital Culture. 2nd ed. London; New York: Routledge, 2013.