Firstly, the question, ‘Why MKs particularly take photos’ is made difficult as the motives and influences are essentially subconscious. I don't have any grand assessment of the psychology of it all, there has never been a moment when photography was made a necessity. Neither do I have so deep a self knowledge as to be able to point to distinct photographic roots, rather as people ask me what boarding school is like.. I've never known anything different to compare it to.
Secondly, (lest my blog actually become about me..) I am strictly only tenuously an MK, and to be a ‘photographer‘ in an age when everyone is a photographer is indirectly to make an assertion regarding the quality (or perhaps quantity) of the work. Conceding that I have hobbied and worked at some small length within photography, I shall offer these thoughts.
One might cite some roots for MKs’ interest in photography in a need to capture a fleeting moments, being somehow more aware of the transient nature of place. Just as we more broadly as a society increasingly move between moments rather than living in them, and so try the more to capture those moments.
Photography can serve to distance one from reality; as an essentially private activity in a public space, perhaps it parallels the ambiguous private/public nature of a boarding school adolescence maybe. As a defence mechanism photography puts a lens between you and the object, for the insecure Phil who doesn't belong to this country.
The imaginative side could be attributed to a TV-less, make-up-your-own-games life at Chefoo, the beauty of life in the jungle. Art born out of longing? I don't know. That will pretentiously be how it should go down in my memoirs.
Some time ago I read Susan Sontag’s ‘On Photography’, I grabbed her quote below off a review online, but it provoked me to think, perhaps, although I can’t recall all the details of the book, that reading it may have informed the sceptical view I take of contemporary visual culture. She goes on in the rest of the book to paint photography as less innocent than simply capturing images, and ultimately to be destructive (?).. Anyways, this quote bears something on the MK question:
"The very activity of taking pictures is soothing, and assuages general feelings of disorientation that are likely to be exacerbated by travel. ... [Taking pictures] gives shape to experience: stop, take a photograph, and move on. The method especially appeals to people handicapped by a ruthless work ethic--Germans, Japanese, and Americans. Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work-driven feel about not working when they are on vacation and supposed to be having fun."
I am provoked to think by aspects of my character that I see in others who have not come through the UK school system, and this question brings to mind TSP and OP, both internationally educated and both photographers.. and the various chinese photographers I’ve known at school in the uk.. Thoughts anyone?
I would wonder also, whether there was a theological aspect to it, beyond these motives to take photos, rather that what we read as ‘good’ photography lies in notions of eternal truth beyond the self, notions MKs may have had affirmed in ways suppressed by a more secular education system. Here I fear I overstep the mark, the question of good, beautiful photography demands another post.
[(ps.) - since writing I discussed the question with my mum, and she suggested that it was inherited.. whether this means perhaps that those photographically inclined are those more likely to go abroad and take their children with them, or by virtue of the nature of mission in our age, those called abroad in this fashion will be equipped and motivated to document travel. perhaps the whole thing is genetic, perhaps a meme.. can memes be recessive? can you have carriers of a photographic gene who don't also suffer from this affliction...]
The desiringgod blog has been thinking about photography recently: http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/1124/