Iconic Imprints of Paris

Documentary Street Photography by Rolf Kjolseth

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As both observer and artist, I am always looking for the beauty in everyday life. Photography trains the eye to discover the artistic dimensions of familiar subjects, and allows one to immediately capture those images with the camera.

Good social documentary photography, then, joins art and science. Both aesthetic and technical qualities are important.

Still photographs also provide unique and valuable impressions of a world that is constantly in motion. The enduring steadfastness of a photograph allows us to tarry, reflect upon the arrested moment, and return to it as often as we choose.

Black-and-white images offer a different way to see the world. Lack of familiar colors creates an abstraction that helps us pause and contemplate that which we normally take for granted. Together, these qualities give a certain timelessness to black-and-white images.

After long thought about the essence of photographic images and a search for the words to pinpoint their distinctive characteristics, I have concluded that a photograph is an “iconic imprint.”

As an imprint it is responsive to the material laws of nature, which permit the creation of an artifact that replicates something in the external world. Yet that creation is motivated by human intent to communicate something about the world. Thus a photograph has iconic qualities -- the image represents something valued by its creator and is intended to convey meaning to others.