The Sacred Duty of Photography, by Peter Hasert

Red Kite in flight by Peter Hasert
Peter Hasert

I had been intuiting about this thing called photography for some time. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my being it seemed there was a whisper trying to tell me something. I knew there was something significant about photography that I had not grasped yet, at least not consciously.

That is, until it finally hit home.

One early morning, photo-gear stored in rucksack, I made my way on foot past hundreds of cars frantically navigating the traffic, pre-COVID of course. I noticed that all their occupants seemed frantically trying to get somewhere, and I wondered for what purpose? Yes, we could say they were going somewhere to build, or repair something or maybe to offer valuable advice or some other essential service.

But were they happy I wondered? And why do we do what we do?

While living in Germany for seventeen years, I also tried to get somewhere, usually at 05:20 driving one hundred miles an hour, quite literally, to get to Frankfurt. And yet it never really felt as if I ever arrived where I wanted to be. Of course I arrived at the office to do the checks on the servers and systems, but was I really where I wanted to be? Was this my destination?

One thing was clear, I wasn’t a happy camper.

I watched the traffic stop, start, stop, start, stop, start, and wondered if the drivers were happy about where they were going , and how they were getting there, their lives I mean. Perhaps they felt the same about their lives? Stop, start, stop, start, stop, start, mixed with frustration. As I looked at the birds, bees and flowers, my attention fell on the breeze, nature’s eclectic mix of colours, and the morning rays of sunshine that warmed my face, and it all looked and felt so wonderfully glorious.

And somehow I felt much closer to where I wanted to be.

In that moment the still small whisper seemed much clearer. The noise of the traffic and the distress of the road users seemed to amplify it. The role of a photographer, could ideally serve as a sublime counter balance to the frenzy of so-called modern life, I thought.

Photography, as an art, serves to balance the chaos we loose ourselves in. It helps us remember the beauty that is still to be found out there away from the maddening machinery we call the economy. And perhaps a specific photo could aid as a signpost pointing us in the right direction, to where we really are meant to be. A place more authentic and more humane.

Many people don’t feel alive, at least not as they would hope to. As a photographer, I hope that I could take the photo that may provide that micro respite from the daily grind for someone somewhere. To inspire them to be a better version of themselves and remember that they are here, not just to feed the machinery but to live a meaningful life.

I witness the marvellous, the miraculous, and yes the sacred spectacle of life as it unfolds around me in all its magnificent glory, and I try to capture it as best I can, for others. I have this duty and privilege to glean fragments of beauty and glory from the world around us, and share it with others who couldn’t be there to witness the miracle.

That I believe is the sacred duty of the photographer.

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