Since I was a kid, when I visited a castle I would always take photos with an aim to catalogue all the details of its design. I would focus on small details and take photos of bits of architecture that explained how the castle was meant to be defended. When I started posting on Instagram this is how I carried on. I would take lots of photos of a place (on a phone these days, rather than a film camera like I had growing up) and put a few up that I felt described the place adequately. But it always struck me how difficult it was to fully capture a place. So I would try to accompany the photos with enough text to explain them, so as to fully describe the place.
I’m beginning to think that was the wrong approach.
You see, I don’t think I can fully describe a castle in images. Short of remaking the guidebook in photos and text captions, I don’t think it can be done. And even guidebooks don’t really capture what a place feels like. It’s not controversial to say that the best way to get a good idea of a historical place is to go visit it, walk around it, see it with your own eyes.
I had a similar problem with taking photos to capture memories. I used to take photos a lot, not because the photo was a nice photo but because I wanted to capture everything about a moment. I wanted to preserve a moment in time. I would keep a journal and take hundreds of photos and hoard receipts. As I was sorting through some of these receipts, I realised I couldn’t remember a thing about some of them. You can go to great lengths to preserve some moments in time but you can’t succeed. Not really. What we can do is take parts of these places and moments and give them to an audience. Eventually you will forget that feeling or that moment you really don’t want to forget. But while we remember we can give something of that to other people.
So I’m not going to get as hung up about trying to photograph every detail. I’m going to try to restrain the urge to preserve everything. I’m just going to try and capture part of a place, or a moment, and convey that. And do it better.