For the past 13 weeks, I’ve been taking an online world history course. In several of the more recent video lectures, the instructor has talked about the importance of photojournalism in history.
He’s mentioned famous photos such as Eddie Adams’ 1968 image of general Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon, and the photo of the protester standing in front of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square taken by Jeff Widener in 1989.
These historic images are known around the world. They are pieces of global history that will never be forgotten.
I came across more historic images a few weeks ago after doing some research at the Chilliwack Archives — of course these photos were on a much smaller and more local scale.
This made me think. In 25, 50 or 100 years, people here in Chilliwack will likely look back at some of my images remembering the bigger events of 2012, like the BC Hydro substation fire, and Justin Trudeau’s visit to Chilliwack.
Or perhaps Chilliwack remembers more fondly some of our smaller events.
I’m sure my photos of little Johnny playing soccer and Sally at the Chilliwack Fair have been snipped out of the paper only to be put into people’s homes as refrigerator art, or tucked away into a scrapbook.
They may be small or insignificant events for most people, but to some, they’re memorable times in someone’s life.
A photo that I took years ago, or perhaps just a couple of months ago that was simply a standard photo assignment to me, may very well be a cherished memory for someone else. Or an awful, painful, or sad memory.
I don’t believe photojournalists, like me, really think about how many people see our images on a daily or weekly basis, or how many people are affected by them and remember them years later.
I probably shoot tens of thousands of images a year, possibly hundreds of thousands. It’s honestly difficult for me to remember what I shoot each week, let alone each year.
Such is the life of a photojournalist. We shoot, we file, we move on to the next assignment.
But with each assignment we shoot, we are capturing a tiny piece of history in someone’s world — whether it be international, national, or local within our own community.
I’ll admit it would be nice if I were recognized internationally for one of my images, but until then, I’m more than happy to be creating images of local history here in Chilliwack.