the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

PARADOX

Where is the main story here? Far away, or up close?

Where is the main story here? Far away, or up close? 1/60 sec., f/1.8, ISO 400, 35mm. 

By MICHAEL PERKINS

EVERY SET OF VISUAL ELEMENTS, CAPTURED AT OPPOSITE EXTREMES, DELIVERS A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SET OF STORY RESULTS. For photographers, the everlasting tug-of-war, involving “what to shoot?” is usually between “how close” and “how far away”? Even the lenses we buy, along with their unique properties, reflect this struggle between the intimate tale, told by a close-up, versus the saga, drawn from a vast panorama. There is a season, turn turn turn, for all kinds of image-making, and it’s no great revelation that many shooters can look at the same grouping of components and get remarkably different results.

Had I come upon the cluster of office cubicles seen in the image above on, say, day “A”, I  might have been inclined to move in close, for a personal story, a detailed look at Life In The Office In This Modern World, or how worker #3456 left behind his umbrella and half a tuna sandwich. As it turned out, however, it was day “B”, and instead I saw the entire block of spaces as part of an overall pattern, as a series of lives linked together but separate, resulting in the more general composition shown here. I was shooting wide open at f/1.8 to retrieve as much light, handheld, as quickly as possible, to use the surrounding darkness to frame all the visual parts of the scene as boxes-within-boxes, rather than a single cube that warranted special attention.

Next time I’m up to bat with a similar scene, I could make the completely opposite decision, which is not a problem, because there never is a wrong decision, only (usually) wrong execution. And, yes, I realize that, by shooting empty offices, I dodged the whole ethical bullet of “should I be spying on all these people?”, otherwise known as Street Photographers’ Conundrum # 36.

I love wrestling with the paradox of how close, how far. There can be no decisive solution.

Only the fun of the struggle.

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