Exploring The Special Meaning Of Photography Part 1

March 24, 2014  •  1 Comment



As a photographer, it is our job to capture special moments of people lives. We are the official documenters. The images we capture will be shared with generations to come. People will look at those photos and remember the place, time, and even the feeling of the moment that the photograph was taken.

Everyone has a photo, maybe a few, that hold a special meaning to him or her. I have several photos that hold a special place in my heart. Recently, one such photo came to mind. A few weeks ago, was the anniversary of the birth of a dear friend of mine. Every year on his birthday I think of him and how important he was in my life. Those thoughts always remind me of a question that was posed to me several years ago as a class assignment during my time in photography school. I would like to extend the question to you…

 What photo holds special meaning to you?



Below is the essay that I wrote for my class. I thought I’d share it with you. 


A Lifetime In One Image


Chanda L Jones

As I began to write this essay, I have to admit that it was harder for me than I thought it would be. Even though I knew exactly which photograph I would use from the very moment the assignment was mentioned in class, I found myself procrastinating about even looking for the photograph. It took me sometime to figure why I was delaying focusing on the assignment since it’s not in my nature to prolong my work. It was the essence of the assignment itself that both intrigued as well as frightened me; I was being forced to deal with something that I had not dealt with for over three years. 

The assignment was to pick a photograph that held a special meaning. Without hesitation, I instinctively picked a photograph of my friend Roger and myself. This photograph means the world to me. It not only represents the core of our friendship, but it is the last photograph that I have of Roger. He died October 18th, 2008… He was taken far too soon.


When this image was taking in 1991, I had no idea how important it would be to me later in my life. When I look back upon that day, I remember a time of innocence. When this picture was taken, I had no way of knowing: that it would be the last image of Roger that I would possess; how important the memory of this moment in time would later become to me; the priceless value of that moment in time.

Before 2008, this picture was just a happy memory of a particular day and time. Roger lived a few doors down from me and we spent many hours at each other’s home. We could be considered as “crib mates” because we grew up together from infancy; he was like my brother. This picture was the reflection of the many silly times we spent together; it was just another day in the life of Roger and me… a family picture of my brother and me.

 For years I kept this picture on my mirror in my barbershop. Barbers, back in the day, placed pictures on their mirror as a way of expressing who they were - and who the people that they cared about the most were... Roger’s picture was always on my barbershop mirror because he was part of my family. He was one of the few people who supported my dreams unconditionally; he even allowed me to cut his hair - way before I was good enough to do it right.

After closing my last shop and moving to Virginia, this photograph spent many years hidden away in a box of day-in-the life photographs. By then, Roger and I had lost the daily contact. We had grown up, and moved away from the old neighborhood; then, the hassles of adult life took over. Over the years, we talked occasionally. Roger was still my brother, and I was still his sister; however, time and distance had begun to get in our way.

When I moved back to Philadelphia a few years later, I had totally lost track of Roger; I searched for him everywhere I could... I searched the old neighborhood with no luck; I even searched the Internet -without luck. Then one day - out of the blue, as I was apartment hunting, I saw Roger’s older brother, Kenny, walking down the street. By the time I finished talking with the landlord and turned around, Kenny was gone… Still I thought Kenny saw me, so I was sure that he would tell Roger that I was in town - even though he hadn’t stopped to actually talk to me; I was confident that it was just a matter of time before I would be reunited with my brother/friend. But before the reunion could happen, I got a call that Roger had died… possibly on the very day that I saw his brother Kenny.

 I never got to see Roger again; I had a hard time with the realization that Roger was gone… Roger and I were supposed: to grow old together, to talk about our children going to college, and share the excitement of becoming grandparents. I never thought in a million years that one of us would not be around to share those moments.

One day, while I was cleaning out a closet, I came across a box of photographs. Just snap shots you know…the day-in-the life box of memories. I came across this picture; years had passed and I had totally forgotten that the picture even existed. In this photograph Roger and me were standing in front of windows in my living room; this space was often the backdrop for our family pictures.  We were hugging each other in the kind of pose that you often see people do - with our arms wrapped around each other. Of course, I was trying to strike a ‘cute’ pose with my best smile; I was trying to take a serious photograph. Roger on the other hand, totally had a different idea. At the very last moment before the shutter button of the camera was released, Roger made a silly face that was captured on film; I am so thankful that moment was captured… It makes me smile whenever I look at it.

The photograph was taken a few years after we had graduated from high school. I graduated from Martin Luther King High School and Roger graduated from Cardinal Dougherty High School. This picture was taken at a moment in time when life was full of potential; a time: before kids, before bills, and before many of the stresses of life had a chance to kick in. This photograph captured the silliness and happiness of Roger as well as his passion to enjoy life.  That’s one of the things I love about this photograph… It shows Roger’s true spirit.

Roger and I had been best friends for as long as I could remember. I grew up in a family with only sisters and Roger had only brothers. So somewhere around fourteen years of age we adopted each other, unofficially of course; I became Roger’s sister and he became my brother. That’s how we introduced each other to other people. We would even go with each other on dates - yes - as a third wheel. Which made the people we were dating somewhat uncomfortable at times, but our dates just had to learn to accept the fact that this other person was coming along – they did…

After Roger’s death, this photograph took on a new meaning. It was always a treasured memory to me, but now it means so much more… It is now a moment time with someone I care so deeply about; it is a moment in time that can never be recreated. We will never be able to pose for another photograph together. We won’t be able to hold a “past” and “present” photograph side by side and compare how young we once were and how old we have now become. This photograph now represents the only visual image of Roger and I together. This photograph is how I remember Roger and me… This photograph is my memory of our friendship and one of the most meaningful photographs I own. 








Lucy Miller(non-registered)
Wow, Chanda, What touching memories of Roger. Telling about how and where you took the photo of you two puts your moment in time into me. Thanks. I have a photo of my mom and my older sister and me last February when we were together, just before my mother discovered she had a tumor in her lung. She died last June at 97. She had a very good life. The photo helps me in grieving and missing her. Hope you and Justice and your mom and sisters are doing fine. Love, Lucy
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