There is quite a number of brilliant photographers here on Cake, and plenty of deep thinkers. I'd like to talk to this crowd about the "why" in photography, mostly on the side of the photographer, but also on the side of the beholders.
Make no mistake, it's a singularly personal question for me. I liked photography for as long as I can remember - my father being an enthusiastic and prolific photographer likely the best reason. He shot black and white film, and we had great time developing it and making prints in a closet or bathroom turned darkroom, and maybe later glossing some prints on a strange electric contraption with a heating element and two chromed plates. On some holiday trips father would splurge and shoot a roll of East German ORWO slide film (much better than most Instagram-ish filters of today :D )
I did my own share of b/w Soviet Zenith camera with Helios lenses, and then, later, was a relatively early adopter of digital photography, with one of earlier Sony devices (one with the 3" floppy), but more seriously with one of the early Fujifilm cameras - I don't really remember the model. Latched on Canon 30D later and became a Canon user. With digital, I really took off, and at some point I even took a break from my IT career and spent a couple years as a commercial event photographer, with travel, horses and music gigs as a kind of personal interests. Got seduced back to IT, though.
Then a number of factors converged. I started to see most interesting scenery during my solo travels on a motorcycle, and there wasn't a lot of space to cart around a DSLR. When I took it with me anyway, I found that I was reluctant to mess with unpacking it to make a single shot and pack away, when a decent point-n-shoot or, increasingly, a cameraphone would do. I started to doubt the feasibility of my traditional postprocessing pipeline (Lightroom, Photoshop and all) when the total outcome were a few frames to be posted to Instagram or Facebook or perhaps Flickr (which went into decline around that time) or shared with a few relatives or close friends. But even more importantly, I started to question - why am I taking these pictures? Why am I bothering with the lenses, cameras, postprocessing, backups and publication pipelines? I was able (I think) to divine some answers.
The most important driver, I am pretty sure, was the desire to capture in some way the beauty of a moment, be it a landscape, a street moment or an abstract geometric order or chaos, and share it with the viewers. However, there is a firehose of imagery today which contains endless amounts of permutations of these beautiful moments, and where sunsets and flowers were 10-15 years ago, all categories are now. Not to mention the dazzling amount of delivery and exposition channels. I no longer feel I can connect to any kind of understandable audience, beyond just throwing things out in hope they will make someone somewhere a bit happier by sheer luck.
In terms of preserving memories I have conceded that cameraphone pictures are more than enough, and semi- or fully automatic ways of posting the results into Instagram/Google Photos albums/etc make dissemination and archival totally painless. More importantly, I can't help but think that it is vastly more important to be able to have these [visual] memories (annotated and enhanced by actual experiences) in my head than to have them on file or in print. I know that the true mastery for a photographer ( or an artist, for that matter) is the ability to transmit or evoke experiences via an image, to people who haven't been there and/or do not have any context; have always strived to achieve that to at least some extent. But since I kinda numbed to the existence of an actual audience, this truth has lost the impulse.
And so I drifted away from photography. I gave most of my camera equipment away. I post maybe a frame or two to Instagram every month or so, pictures shot from my phone. I have more pictures of my kids on my Telegram chats w/ family than elsewhere. When traveling, I spend more time looking and committing to memory instead of peering through viewfinders and padding memory cards. But still, from time to time I feel the tug of being able to produce these beautiful moments caught in [mostly digital] amber, and think about getting back to it, but then the philosophy and "why" and "what for" kicks in and the feeling recedes.
So what are your whys? Why do you do it. Have you had to spar with such philosophical questions in regard to your photographic hobby? If you don't make photos yourself but like to see and consume this type of art, what are your thoughts on the matter?