Mark Bauer • Why Do We Take Pictures?

A fascinating thought experiment prompted Mark Bauer to re-evaluate his thoughts on the motivations of photography. Here he dives into how our focus on material desires affects our philosophies

When I’m not involved in photography, one of the ways I like to spend time is reading books of ‘pop’ psychology and philosophy – psychology or philosophy for the layman, if you like. In the course of my reading, I recently came across a fascinating thought experiment proposed by Professor William B. Irvine of Dallas University, as a way of exploring what lies behind modern consumerism and materialism.

The ‘experiment’ works like this: you wake up one morning to discover that you are the only person left on earth. For whatever reason, the rest of the population has disappeared overnight. However, everything else remains – houses, shops, infrastructure and so on. Cars are left wherever their owners had parked them and fuel is freely available from the now unstaffed garages. You would probably feel very lonely, but let’s ignore the emotional implications of the situation for the moment and focus on material desires. You could have anything you wanted. You could live in the biggest mansion you could find, drive any car you wanted, wear the finest clothes, choose amazing art to put on your walls and so on. But, would ...

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