Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:
Back in the olden days, philosophers thought a lot about water. Thales (sometimes considered the first philosopher) went out on a limb and proclaimed that “all is water.” This was a gutsy move given the fact that a simple walk around the block will convince most human beings that all is, in fact, not water. But Thales was after something more profound. He was trying to make a distinction between the “really real” and the way things seem, the way things appear. Water is the foundation, he was saying, water is what its all about. Such a distinction pretty much defined the act of philosophizing from then on.
The next guy to make a big claim about water was Heraclitus. He mentioned, notoriously, that you can't step into the same river twice. For Heraclitus, all was not water. All was, instead, conflict, tension, movement, dynamism. The reason you can't step into the same river twice is because the damn thing changes as part of its nature, its nature is to become different all the time. This led Plato to quip that if the nature of things is so unstable as that, you can't even step in the same river once.
Ever since those early days of the water wars human beings have been trying to figure out what makes one thing one thing and another thing another thing. In very general terms, there have always been some people who are more comfortable with Being and some people who are more comfortable with Becoming. The Being people get excited about how identity remains stable, how a chair is always a chair, a table always a table. The Becoming people are fascinated by the gray areas, the things you can't quite categorize, the fleeting, the indefinite.
Photography, since its invention in the 19th century, has always played the role of a double agent. On one hand, photography fixes time, a notoriously shifty and ever-changing phenomenon. But photography grabs time and sits it down. You could say that photography freezes moments of essence. This pleases the Being people. A photograph has a sliver of forever inside it.
But photography plays the other side of the field as well. That's because photography is in league with the ephemeral. Photography loves the mundane, the seemingly inconsequential. Especially as the technology got simpler to use, photography became the great art of the passing moment. The snapshot is the friend of the Becoming people.