The One Single Question We Need to Answer

“O Deep Thought computer,” he said, “the task we have designed you to perform is this. We want you to tell us….” he paused, “The Answer.”
“The Answer?” said Deep Thought. “The Answer to what?” “Life!” urged Fook. “The Universe!” said Lunkwill. “Everything!” they said in chorus.
Deep Thought paused for a moment’s reflection. “Tricky,” he said finally.
“But can you do it?”
Again, a significant pause.
“Yes,” said Deep Thought, “I can do it.” “There is an answer?” said Fook with breathless excitement.
“Yes,” said Deep Thought. “Life, the Universe, and Everything. There is an answer. But, I’ll have to think about it.”

[Seven and a half million years later after raising the question]

“The Answer to the Great Question… Of Life, the Universe and Everything… Is… Forty-two,’ said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.”
“Forty-two!” yelled Loonquawl. “Is that all you’ve got to show for seven and a half million years’ work?”
“I checked it very thoroughly,” said the computer, “and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.”

| Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The One Single Question We Need to Answer

Here’s a thought. During the last weeks, I have been able to go through my archive. While I found many hidden treasures, it stroke me to find several photographs following a similar idea. Many of these photographs show a diagonal line which is separating two different sides. It looks like this diagonal might work as either a chasm between both sides or like a like connecting them together, giving them hold and togetherness.

One could potentially think that I am following compositional ideas that have proven to be successful in the past and copy them over and over again. However, I have reasons to believe that this is not true. I have personally never been interested to copy ideas and am always eager to continue, process, experiment with new ideas and burn them into new, fresh and surprising outcomes. Copying ideas makes my tired and unmotivated. It is unlikely that this is the reason for these photographs that look to be similarly constructed. What could therefore be the reason that I created this body of work?

In expressive photography, we create photographs who allow our personality to shine through our work. We create photographs that transmit emotions or thoughts that are subjective to our mind as the photographer and artist. This work couldn’t be made by another photographer in the same way. In my last article about The Short Life of Visual Effects, I argued that for expressive photography we need to find a connection to our inner personality, to listen and to allow to let it influence our work. If we accept this to be true, what do the outcomes of our work then tell about us? What if we discover the same theme emerging over and over again over a lifespan?

What if there is only one single question we need to answer as an artist in our life?  Not many, just one. And this one question is the driver, the engine, the trigger for all our artistic work? What if we seek out to find personal healing through finding an answer? An answer to something that has unconsciously been working in us for decades? And what if you already have the answer baked into your photographs, but haven’t yet discovered it?

Well, enjoy going back through your archives and good luck with finding your personal question. I hope you’ll not need seven and a half millions years to find it, but knowing what the question is, might safe us a lot of time. Even more important, the question might show us home.