One of the virtues of Myth is its ability to “bring us into a level of consciousness that is spiritual.” Myths can help put our minds “in touch with this experience of being alive” while also revealing “what human beings have in common.” These are just a few more thoughts shared by Joseph Campbell in his book The Power of Myth, and they could be equally applied to Photography. It is precisely this common experience of being human that allows us as viewers to recognize and relate to the emotion expressed in an image like the one shown below:
Photography is unique in its ability as an art form to communicate this idea of shared experience. We generally accept that what is in the photograph actually existed somewhere and that the camera was witness to a real event. In seeing a real event like the one above, and seeing it as something relatable half a world away, the photographer is able to mythologize that moment and present it as a representation of human experience.
The art and practice of story-telling has been one of mankind’s most prevailing practices. In an attempt to understand the world around us, to seek “an experience of being alive,” the human race has consistently invented stories. The many mythologies that have prevailed across time and geological boundaries are a testament to our need to tell stories in order to make sense of our world. But where we can look back at past cultures and find, essentially, the prevailing myths of specific peoples, in America, there does not seem to be a single, congruent story by which our society is unified. To quote Joseph Campbell, “life today is so complex, and it is changing so fast, that there is no time for anything to constellate itself before it’s thrown over again.” Continue reading →