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Photography as a Visual Language

While human language consists of words that are usually spoken or written, photography is the activity of taking photographs, giving strong images and thus impression to human mind. People communicate each other everyday through talking, listening, and writing. Photographs also can be functioned in this daily communication as any languages because they are visual words, the most perfect ones among hieroglypics.

In his poem "Lines on a Young Lady's Photograph Album," Philip Larkin laments that "But, o, photography! as no art is, / Faithful and disappointing!" As is suggested in this poem, "faithfulness" is the very soul of photography. Seeing a thing delivers a stronger message than simply listening about it. So, people can understand a situation exactly through well-drawn drawings or well-taken photographs. In this regard, photography is both an art and a language with broad meanings and powerful images.

Photography is a very attractive language. Whatever experience, rhetoric, or beauty, a photographer can capture with photographs. For example, she or he can take pictures of any bloody war scenes, and in doing so, people all around the world can see the very scenes of human misery. The photographer also can capture tiny little bugs, a beautiful evening sunset, shadows of the hot sand-hills, flowers swaying in the wind, or anything he or she wants to take.

Photography, however, needs creativity and originality. Photography is not a simple skill of taking pictures but a complex and creative activity of doing artwork. Photographs should be unique in this world. Any scenes can be reproduced by cameras, but they should be original and artful.

In the fourth-century B.C., Greek philosopher Aristotle understood the basic principle of photography when he looked at a solar eclipse. He realized that photos were made by light. Any photographs can't be produced without any light. Thinking photographs as pictures drawn with light, I, a photographer, want to say, "I'm an artist drawing pictures with light."

"Inside of me, I have a tiny room.
Sometimes, it made me feel full, or empty, or comfortable.
Sometimes, it appears to me as an absolutely strange place.
Sometimes, there blows calm wind inside of me,
Though I can't understand what the wind does mean.
Sometimes, I open the door and watch the world,
And I wonder about the mind of strangers.
Still I remain inside, in the same space."

Joo Jung-sun  serendipity@dongguk.edu

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