Why Do We Take Photographs? : Visitors Respond

Posted: September 26, 2013 - 14:45 , by Deepali Dewan
Exhibitions and Galleries | Comments (0) | Comment
Response card from "GENESIS" exhibit Activation Area

The landmark exhibit “Genesis” just closed at the Royal Ontario Museum. An “Activation Area” in the exhibit invited visitors to engage with issues at a personal level by considering how photography works in their own lives. We collected over 1200 responses! Here is a selection.Visitors were asked to respond to the questions: Why do we take photographs? and How can photographs create change?

Responses were written on polaroid-like cards and displayed in the Activation Area. From writing styles and pop cultures references, we could see that responses came from people of different ages and cultural backgrounds.

A large number of response cards focused on Memory and the desire to Remember, often including personal information.

Others emphasized preserving or capturing a “moment” for posterity, reflecting a sense that photographs can stop, hold, or even turn back time.


Still others responded through images.


A numbers of others mentioned the role photographs play in shaping emotions, our sense of beauty, social media, our entertainment, and what we think of as “evidence.”


Thematic breakdown of response cards collected between  May 7- July 17, 2013—a total of 1254 cards.

Thanks to Chanelle Fabbri and Rachel Lobo, students in Ryerson University’s Masters in Photo Preservation and Collections Management, for compiling these results!

See more individual response cards here.