An explanation involving memory and mindfulness.

Images by Andrea Marie Tan
Images by Andrea Marie Tan

From beautiful photographs on thousand-dollar cameras to blurry selfies on cheap phones, humans love to capture moments. But why do we take photos? There may be numerous answers, but this article will examine the two M’s of photography: memory and mindfulness. These concepts can help us understand why humans cannot resist snapping pictures.

Memory

When asking someone why they take photos, many people will reply with the simple conclusion: “to remember.” But do photos actually help us reminisce about certain events? Some research

argues, no. However, this psychological science study suggests otherwise. By testing the memory of participants who were told to take photos of certain objects compared to those who did not, results indicated that photos can enhance visual memory. In fact, the authors of this study propose that even just “having a camera changes how people approach an experience in a fundamental way.” Not only is it the attraction in the recollection of reviewing images, but the act of taking the photo itself and noticing features in a different light can further establish a solid memory.

Evidently, humans take photos to remember the things they do not want to forget. Perhaps taking artistic photos of calculus formulas or the periodic table would help students out.

Mindfulness

Photography requires dedication. From early morning sunrise shots (which can make an 8 a.m. class feel luxurious) to chasing after wildlife (which causes more panting than the hike from H lot), photographers constantly make sacrifices to capture the perfect image. In doing so, a sense of mindfulness is achieved. Some people view photography as a spiritual practice that accompanies them throughout life. According to meditation instructor and photographer Jonathan Foust, taking photos helps him “move from a sense of self-absorption to relating to the world around.” In this article, Foust describes feeling thankful to be able to “capture moments of grace in the endless stream of experience.” For him, photography is a form of meditation that calms the stressors of life. During hectic exam seasons and late nights of studying, students may benefit from the mindfulness of simply snapping a few photos.

Whether you’re a professional photographer or casual Instagram user, the reason behind taking photos is rooted in comfort and fulfillment. Having the ability to strengthen our memories while also grounding our mental state exposes the true beauty of photography.