It could be argued that images/photographs have become, like music, a universal language since the digital age has made sharing them so easy and immediate. As I have written before, this can have its disadvantages and images can be easily devalued as a result, but then that happens to language as well. Words such as 'tragic' and 'friends' for example, have become so commonplace, without any regard for a true definition, that in many circumstances they are virtually meaningless in their blandness. Like the word 'nice'.
However, photographs also bring people together, and are a great way of starting a conversation with a stranger who becomes, only minutes later, someone whose sense of identity, attitudes and even emotions come tumbling out as if you have known them for ages.
For example, I met a young Spanish woman yesterday whilst she was waiting for a friend. We probably chatted for only about 5 to 10 minutes as I tried to recall enough Spanish from my past to have a conversation. Her patience as I struggled to make myself understood was what struck me first then, as I explained I was a photographer, her willingness to tell me that she was a freelance journalist who was looking for work but finding it difficult in London (a city she clearly loved) to make contact with the right people. By the end of our short conversation this 29 year old woman (who laughed as she said everyone mistook her age as she looked no more than 20), took one of my cards as I said I would happily take a portrait of her (possibly for a CV) if it would help her in her search for employment. It is unlikely she will take up my offer, but those 5 or 10 minutes had been refreshing for their lack of complexity, their spontaneity and their tacit acknowledgement that it would be very easy to strike up an equally warm, easy conversation as the portrait was taken, making it much more likely I would be able to capture something abut her that was not merely superficial.