My Favorite Photograph

“As photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal,” Susan Sontag wrote, “they also help people to take possession of space in which they are insecure.”  I look back now on the five or six years when I traveled and photographed extensively as an extended effort to find my place in the world.  Many of the photos now have come to represent the trips themselves; experiences not captured by my camera often need to be refreshed to me through friends that I met along the way.

At other times, elements of the pornographic — which Sontag talks about so much in her own thinking on photography — come to mind.  The photographer striving to capture, or even to own, the experience he has just had or the person he has just met.  In some ways, just like sex, this pursuit ends not in elation or an essential discovery but in the death of the very nature of the experience itself.

I took this photo about three years ago, and it still hangs in my flat as my favorite photograph.  I took it out of a car window when driving through the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia/Chile.  It is so abstract that I often don’t register it as a photo.  The small road in the left middle ground reminds me of the fact that man has been there, yet remains pretty trivial compared to the landscape itself (just like the small boats, temples, or people hiding in corners of Chinese watercolour landscapes).

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