The Impermanence of Everything
Pathos. That is what photography means to me.
The march of time erases everything. You cannot love life and not feel a kind of sorrow in this at the same time.
Photography seems to me to be the most cogent response to this immutable fact, but even then, we are never left with the real thing, just some ghostly imprint and what was.
Through photography we allow ourselves the illusion of freezing time. I know what I looked like as a baby because my parents took the trouble to take my photo while documenting my journey through childhood and beyond. Or, at least, I think I know (because there are plenty of reasons to distrust the image as well).
And while we all age, perhaps faster than we would like, and loved ones pass on, the world around us also shifts in other ways. Imperceptibly at first, but, with the advance of middle age, the changes become more apparent. A lot of my photography is in response to this and I try to capture what I fear will one day be forgotten.
So today I have two cases in point:
This is the Bam Citadel (Arg-e Bam), in the Kerman province in eastern Iran. Situated on the old Silk Road, it is a UNESCO world heritage site as and is the world’s largest adobe (mud brick) building.
Or at least it was. Five years after I took this large format photograph there was an earthquake in 2003 which killed around 26000 people. And this building, dating back 2000 years, came crashing to the ground.
Palmyra, in Syria, also owes its development to ancient trade activity. Archaeological findings suggest human activity dating back thousands of years, but it rose to prominence when it was subsumed in the Roman Empire in the first century AD. It too is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Given its long history it has of course seen plenty of conflict, most notably when the Roman emperor Aurelian destroyed it in 273 AD, so I was photographing ruins with my large format camera when I visited. But some years after I passed through, ISIS/Islamic State took exception to many of its most notable structures and destroyed them presumably as an act of pure spite when the Syrian Civil War was in full swing in 2015.
Admittedly there are restoration efforts at both these sites, but there is nevertheless no going back. And those restoration efforts will rely on photography as the primary means of bringing past and present together. It is the bridge to our past.