These images took less than an hour to make. Just me, walking around, nothing particular on my plate, other than to get out of the house. Make something. I used to think images like this were going to be part of my future. After all, I had a digital camera, a good one, and I had the lenses I need. My thought was I would take a setup with me wherever I went, shooting a continual stream of “stuff.” Not my stuff, mind you, but stuff that I thought someone else might like. So I did. For a while.
I’ve always said you can shoot ANYTHING with a tilt-shift and it looks pretty much okay. Kinda interesting, but maybe you can’t put your finger on why. For me, these images sum that up, unfortunately, all too well. These images are based, almost entirely on technique.
Are these great images? No. Not by a long shot. Are they unique? Different? Can you tell I made them? No. ANYONE could have made these. Now I’m not saying there isn’t a market for this stuff, there is actually, but I realized that I can’t be the one to supply them. There could potentially be hundreds of thousands of people shooting this kind of work around this wonderful rock we live on. Stock, or basic stock. Again, look at image sales, there is a massive vortex of this stuff changing hands each and every day.
But for me I realized that with a specialized technique comes the trappings of that technique. In many situations, like this for example, the technique overwhelms the idea of the photograph, and sometimes, just sometimes we begin to think things are a little better than they actually are. Like shooting everything at 1.4 while doing portraits. Is it a great image or is the background out of focus? There is a difference I think. I thing great images are a combination of many, many things. LIght, timing, composition, simplicity, luck, etc, and yes, technique plays a part but in my mind it shouldn’t be at the top of the list.
I’ve done it. I’m showing you these flimsy pictures as evidence of my falling to the trappings of technique. And I’ll let you in on another little secret….this wasn’t the only time. Not by a long shot. I wish it was, but as you all know by now I”m not that together. And my failings with technique have run a far gamut of violation. Actions sets, filters, tilt-shift, super-telephoto, etc, I’ve mangled them all.
Much of the photography I see today is loaded up with technique. Far too much technique. When I see images with vignettes and actions sets applied like ketchup at a baseball game, I always try to see under those trappings and see what content the original image contained. In MOST cases, not much, hence the filters. But people, this is life. Great imagery doesn’t happen very often, but in a world of instant gratification we have fooled ourselves into thinking it does, fooled ourselves into thinking that every time out we are going to come home with the goods.
Photography doesn’t work that way. Technique doesn’t make an image. And let’s go extreme with that. I have a friend who is a tintype photographer, a very, very good one. He has several books to his name, magazine credits, many exhibitions and numerous prints sales I’m sure. An image of his hangs in my house as we speak. Two now that I come to think of it. But guess what? Not everything he shoots is good, and if you ask him I’m sure he will tell you the same. He was to WORK at it. Or perhaps more appropriately, he has to work WITH it. WITH the technique, but not reliant upon it.
I’ve realized, for me anyway, the most difficult thing to do is make a straight, 35mm image look incredible. And when I say straight I mean minimum dodge and burn, aka darkroom, not computer, where we can fine tune things beyond reality(Yes, you can go beyond reality in the darkroom, I can’t because I suck in the darkroom.) This is why my current project is with this technique, or lack there of. And I tell you, it ain’t easy. I have to be in the right place, at the right time, and have the right light and have something happen and I have to realize it is happening, BEFORE it happens and then be in position, with the right exposure and focus and nail it. CRAP. It ain’t easy.
But. But. But. WHEN it happens, you can literally FEEL it happening. And MOST of the time, when it does happen, and all the stuff I just listed happens, you KNOW it happened. And THAT is what photography is about to me.
So when I look at this tilt-shift fluff I have no relationship to it. None. I took these, but they are not mine. They belong to the photo-industry, or a part of it, a part I no longer walk. But that’s okay. I was out of the house. I was walking and looking, so there were things to learn and see, but when it comes down to it, that isn’t enough.
The tilt-shift is no longer in my bag. I no longer shoot portraits wide open for no particular reason and I find myself realizing how little I know about the basics of photography. It might sound weird but it’s true. Maybe one day soon you’ll see me in the library with the yellowed pages of some 1950’s photo-textbook, taking notes and wondering how I missed all those things……