This is a bit of a different post, as it will address photography in a broader way than my usual petty ramblings about cameras and gear. In this note I’d like to talk about how our perception and even use of photography has changed, mostly with the rise and generalization of digital cameras and cellphones, making everyone a potential photographer.
I guess what started this reflexion, or rather brought it to the foreground of my mind, is reading the autobiography of Don McCullin, a well known and immensely talented British war photographer, who covered just about every single armed conflict on the planet in the second half of the twentieth century.
Mr McCullin has roamed, run and crawled the globe documenting man’s folly and risking his own life for the sake of making images. Important, decisive ones. He’s often been accused of printing his photos ‘too dark”. Most of them are grainy to the point of grittiness, yet, he’s one of the most important photographers alive, and his work will remain tremendously major even after he departs Earth.
So how did we go from *important* pictures, to obsessing over a very overrated technical perfection ?? Don’t get me wrong,I have nothing against well exposed, in focus, sharp pictures with correct white balance. Nothing at all, and it’s also something I try to achieve as much as possible. But I’d be lying if I said that technique is my number one criteria and goal when I shoot. I think narration is. To me, pictures are interesting because they excite our imagination. They tell a *story*. A vast majority of the pictures I see plastered all over the internet today don’t have any story to tell. AND most of them are technical crap, as well.
I’m not saying that only war and gory PJ style photos are worthy, no at all. I even protested vehemently on some internet boards at how complacent I found this years’s World Press Photo Awards to have been. Death, torture, abuse, more death, all in ths gloomiest processing available Oh, thanks. But that’s another debate I’ll save for another post. What I’m aiming at is, even if none of us amateurs are photojournalists (PJs) with striking or shocking pictures to share, we all experience things in our lives that are worth documenting, in the most artistic way that we know how. Except we often find our creativity castrated by the searing comments of some geeks on the internet who couldn’t save a compelling photo to save their boring, virtual lives.
Tehnical perfection, or even mere proficiency, is not a goal, not in itself at least. It’s merely a mean to an end. And so saw it the great masters in paintings and sculpting. Few people know that at age 20, Picasso could draw like Michaelangelo. That’s not what made him famous, either. Technique is a wonderful servant, and a very bad master. We all have personal styles and goals in this photographic journey we chose to take. My personal focus in photography is narration. I want my images to tell stories, albeit small, mundane and daily ones, but stories nonetheless. I want to grab the viewer and pull him into the picture with my subjects, mood, and place. Most of the time I’m graced with in focus, decently framed and properly exposed pictures. But once in a while focus is a little off, a body part is cut off or a distracting element eludes my scrutiny and ends up in the photo. Am I gonna cull the frame if the story, the emotions are there ? You bet not ! I’m always perplexed (and usually more than a little annoyed) to see beautiful and meaningful portraits (not mine) criticized by gearheads and pixel peepers because of a tiny, irrelevant detail. That just goes to show how imune those people are to art, emotion and beauty. And that’s just sad.
Sad as is the modern focus on technique minuatie rather than content in photography. So I’ll keep on delivering my little flawed images that try to have a meaning, at least for me.