Photographs + Time = Value!

The black and white photo below is a scene Ansel Adams photographed in 1947. A simple depiction of life at a street corner in Los Angeles. Why would he photograph that? At a time when people mostly used their cameras for special occasions and maybe big purchases–new house or car–those people probably couldn’t fathom making photographs of strangers on the street.

But this photo, being 74 years old, shows life with a different set of technology than today. Older cars. Stop signs not stop lights. Time makes it especially valuable. Photographs we make today will be very much valued in 74 years, 2095.

Ansel Adams photograph of the corner of Sunset and Vine in Los Angeles.

We can’t see how much time will change how we look in 30, 50, 75 years while we are here in it. What we see looks normal and we assume it’s how it always will be. Just like we can’t see ourselves aging while looking at the mirror daily. But others who see us only occasionally, they see the changes. I wish I had made street photographs in New York in the 1970s when I was there as a child. Those photographs would be wonderful to see now.

A scene in downtown Philadelphia in 2019. Just wait until 2093!
A scene from Denver in 2021. 2095 is coming!

So, it would good if we were like Ansel. Making photographs of the simple ordinary views of today. Mixed with a little time, they will become invaluable to people in the future. It’s why we make photographs, to travel back in time and relive those bygone days.

Just like in 1947, it’s the photograph that other people aren’t thinking of making. And if we miss it, the scene will be missed.

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3 thoughts on “Photographs + Time = Value!

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  1. This is so true. The photos I have that I value most are ones that show how things used to look. I have a handful of photos of my old high school in its context, for example — the building was torn down 25 years ago and there are tennis courts on the site now, a new school built a block down the street. Also, my oldest old-road photography now shows how things used to be as I made those photos almost 15 years ago — things can change dramatically even in that time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The photojournalist David Burnett said he’s photographed all over the world but the photos he wishes he had were the ones of his buddies hanging out in college. Doing ordinary college kid things. Time is the key. Thanks, Jim. How’s your new job going?


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