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10 Best Songs About Photographs And Photography

Home > Everywhere > Lists | Music | Performing Arts | Photography | Quirky
by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published May 10th 2020
Taking a picture of music
After my recent column of songs about art and artists, I received a comment that a column about photographs and photography might be a good idea. I thought about it and decided she was right. There are a lot of great songs about photos.
photo, photograph, picture, camera, film, song, music, memory, track

Photographs are often used as a metaphor for memories, and quite rightly so. They are a concrete manifestation of something cerebral. Nowadays, almost everyone has a camera – it's a part of their phone. And many, many people have so many photos on storage devices that they never look at that the whole concept of a photograph being important for memories has been lost. Yes, I am old, but "back in the day" when you had to take your film to the chemist or photography shop and wait for it to be developed in order to see your pictures in print, the resulting images meant a little bit more. But even some-one like me, who lives on nostalgia, owns and uses exclusively a digital camera to take my photos which means a trip where I might have taken 24 pictures (one roll of film) back then can see me taking 100 or more now. It is tragically a diminishing art form.

All right, before I start – these are songs I like and that I own. These tracks were all pulled from my own music collection. That means there are probably a heap more I have missed. Feel free to add your own in the comments section below! Also, Rod Stewart's 'Every Picture Tells A Story' was in my Art and Artists column… and, yes, it is a singularly brilliant song, I agree. Further – the photograph or taking the photograph or camera is central to each song, not just something on the periphery.
photo, photograph, picture, camera, film, song, music, memory, track

One final thing – I do know that some of these songs are, shall we say, not universally loved. I do not care. I like them. Onto the list!

'Pictures Of Lily' by The Who (1968)

Okay, interesting one to start with. A boy falls in love with the woman on an old photograph and this is his gateway into becoming… a man? I guess? Yeah, the subtle undertones of this song are not really all that subtle, truth be told, but I didn't know what the song was about until after I'd left high school and some-one had to explain it to me! Still, the fact is that a photograph had a great effect on the boy. And the music is great. The Who really have been wonderful over the past fifty-plus years.

'Photograph' by Ringo Starr (1973)

This is one of my very favourite post-Beatles songs by members of the Fab Four. Yes, a Ringo Starr track! The photograph of the girl not only serves as a memory but also a painful reminder of a love lost. Written by Starr and George Harrison, it is a simple song, but so very evocative of what is being said. And Ringo's voice suits it so well. Starr and especially Harrison were unfairly overshadowed by Lennon and McCartney, and tracks like this show that quite starkly.

'Kodachrome' by Paul Simon (1973)

For those too young to remember, Kodachrome was a brand of film made by the Kodak company. Might still be being made for all I know; I haven't bought camera film in over 10 years. In this pleasant little song, Simon doesn't want his camera (his Nikon, of all brands) taken away so that he can remember the colours of the world when everything seems so black and white. It is like so many immediate post-Simon & Garfunkel Paul Simon songs in that it is that early 70s singer-songwriter stuff, but a little more relatable than a lot of his ilk. I like Paul Simon.

'Picture This' by Blondie (1978)

This is in the period when Blondie were transitioning from punks to pop stars, and showed that Deborah Harry really could sing. She wants a photograph to put in her wallet to remember the guy who has left her. It is another simple song in structure, but Blondie were a tight unit and the song is really carried by Harry's magnificent voice.

'Girls On Film' by Duran Duran (1981)

Before there were boy bands being churned out by musical factories, there was Duran Duran, who wrote their own songs, played their own instruments and created their own videos. And this song is probably better known for its video… at least, the uncensored, un-restricted version. But, even ignoring the visualisation, the song itself is a decent bit of early 80s New Wave pop music and was one of the heralds of what was to come. The film, by the way, is not a movie, but a roll of camera film, as in a modelling shoot. I feel I have to explain that because I had to explain it to one of my beta readers. I feel so old…

'Freeze Frame' by The J. Geils Band (1981)

I could just have easily have used their 'Centrefold' for this list, about a guy who sees his high school crush in the centre of a men's magazine, but this song just seemed to fit a little better. In this one, the camera metaphors abound ("dark-room"; "zoom lens", etc.) and it is, again, about having that picture of a loved one to aid a memory, or the memory being the picture of a loved one. It's hard to tell. Still, awesome song.

'My Camera Never Lies' by Bucks Fizz (1981)

Okay, yes, the butt of a thousand 1980s jokes, it's Bucks Fizz, and one of the many forgotten songs they released around the time of their Eurovision success. In my opinion, a number of Bucks Fizz songs were decent slices of early 80s pop and this one is no exception. This is all about the old trope of a private detective taking photos of some-one in a compromising situation. The singing of the band members was never taken seriously, and yet I like the harmonies on this song as well as the 1980s pop-ness of it all.

'Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)' by A Flock Of Seagulls (1982)

Most people think of A Flock Of Seagulls as a haircut and the song 'I Ran', but this was a follow-up that should have done far better than it did. Slower and better sung than the more famous track, this is yet another song where the singer wants a photograph so that he can remember a lost love instead of just wishing to see her again. Wow, is that a familiar trope amongst these songs or what? Anyway, another decent slice of 1980s pop, and one that no-one seems to remember any longer. Shame.

'Photograph' by Nickelback (2005)

Apparently, I am the only person left in the world who likes this song. Look, I know Nickelback are now the punch-line of every early noughties music joke out there for "selling out" and making "disposable rock", but I do like this song, In fact, it has come up before in my writings here. And as I type this, I know any ideas of me being taken seriously as a music writer have flown out the window, but the idea of a photograph brining about a sense of nostalgia in the singer is fine, and the fact is, I can relate to it. I also like it, critics be damned.

'selfie#theinternetisforever' by Brad Paisley (2017)

And let's finish with a reasonably recent song from my favourite country singer who I might have mentioned before. Unlike the other songs on this list, this is looking at a negative of photography, and it is one that has become ubiquitous recently – the selfie. Paisley not only thinks it might not be a good idea, but wants to remind people who take those embarrassing pictures that they are going to be on the Internet somewhere forever. And because this is delivered with Paisley's usual wit and nice-guy-ness, it feels like a humour track, but it is actually far more complex than that. Yeah, there's a reason why I like Paisley.

And there you have it, ten songs about photographs and photography. Like I said, this was restricted to songs I actually own, so I apologise for that, and so, please, feel free to give us some more below. Meanwhile, happy listening and enjoy!

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Why? Songs are memories like pictures
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Your Comment
haha. Lily has made an appearance at last!
by May Cross (score: 3|8202) 870 days ago
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