I recently came across two images posted on Twitter by the UK based photographer Jim Mortram. They were images that instantly reminded me of what I love most about photography. They were timeless, iconic, melancholic, soulful images. They were nostalgic. They are the images that accompany this post.
These images speak of a place that we have all been to at some time in our lives. That place we return to more and more frequently with the passing of time. A place we call ‘nostalgia’. That place imbued with a sense of time passing and of loss. A place we find ourselves drawn to and rarely visit by choice.
You could pass a similar judgement on a number of Mortram’s images but I don’t want to focus this post purely on his work. His images were the catalyst, a spark and it is that spark that ignited my own nostalgia towards photography and the images that first gave me that sense of emotional connection and narrative travel. Images created by William Klein on the streets of Fifties New York, by Roger Mayne in post Second World War West London, by Eugene Smith in the battle scarred landscape of Okinawa and by Don McCullin in the battle fields of Vietnam.
These photographers created images that were at their best capable of suspending the concept of a specific time of capture. Their images remain perennially contemporary and relevant because they speak to the viewer about a shared condition, a state of mind, an inner feeling. A recognisable feeling. They ignite the human subconscious need for nostalgia. The comfort of nostalgia. The spiritual affirmation of nostalgia. The safety of nostalgia.
It is this connection that I believe raises the personal importance of an image. That sense of connection is to me what elevates a photographic image above an act of pure documentation. From the intellectual to the emotional. It is what I look for in an image.
This is how I felt when I saw Jim’s images. Nostalgic. Not only for the past but also for my photographic past. For the images I had forgotten about. The images that had formed my personal photographic vocabulary.
My father once said to me “There are two types of people in the world, those who get Bob Dylan and those who have no soul”. I think I could replace Bob’s name with any of the photographers I have mentioned in this post and I am sure that you could add many more. That sense of nostalgia is I believe within us all and within all of our photographic DNA, its just that sometimes we need reminding of it.
© Grant Scott 2014