The building blocks of photographs have gradually shifted over time — from rudimentary photosensitive chemicals to electrical impulses and tiny pixels. However, the aim of photography has remianed fundamentally unchanged: to record… something. Nonetheless, I would bet that any two photographers would have completely different motivations beyond that point.
However, whether the photographer is trying to capture mountain goats in the Himalayas or artistically explore the concept of schadenfreude, every single photograph every taken accomplishes the same thing: it records one moment in history, though that moment may last anywhere from 1/4000th of a second to several days.
All of this came to mind while I was munching on popcorn in the long hallway of The Columns Hotel for its 100th anniversary. Old residents milled around with young, chic college students; a band filled the rooms with drums and sweet jazz, recorded diligently on smartphones. I knew I wanted to capture a day that was so steeped in the past, yet still so undeniably present.
The intentional or unintentional record of history is something that makes photography truly special. Imagine, for example, the hundreds of families that make their way to New Orleans to eat the food, ride the streetcars, and anything else a tourist might do, all with a camera in tow. Maybe their only intention was to make a nice album for their family, kept in storage until it’s dug up 20 years later. But they’ve also recorded a tiny section of the New Orleans’ visual history as we know it, adding to an infinitely diverse pool of visual narratives shared by men, women, couples, families and children all over the world. Maybe in 300 years The Columns will be torn down and turned into a tennis megaplex run by athletic aliens. But in this moment, where the golden sun shines on the white columns and a couple makes their way up to the doors, the hotel — and its 100 years of history — exists forever.