the photoshooter's journey from taking to making


Lots going on here. Too much?

Lots going on here. Too much?



THESE DAYS IT SEEMS TO TAKE LESS TIME TO SNAP A PHOTOGRAPH THAN IT DOES TO DECIDE WHETHER IT HAS ANY MERIT. Photography is still largely about momentary judgements, and so it stands to reason that some are more well-conceived than others. There’s a strong temptation to boast that “I meant to do that, of course” when the result is a good one, and to mount an elaborate alibi when the thing crashes and burns, but, even given that very human tendency, some pictures stubbornly linger between keeper and krap, inhabiting a nether region in which you can’t absolutely pronounce them either success or failure.

The image at left is one such. It was part of a day spent in New York’s Central Park, and for most of the shots taken on that session, I can safely determine which ones “worked”. This one, however, continues to defy a clear call either way. Depending on which day I view it, it’s either a slice-of-life capture that shows the density of urban life or a visual mess with about four layers too much glop going on. I wish there were an empirical standard for things like photographs, but…..wait, I really don’t wish that at all. I like the fact that none of us is truly certain what makes a picture resonate. If there were such a standard for excellence, photography could be reduced to a craft, like batik or knitting. But it can never be. The only “mission” for a photographer, however fuzzy, is to convey a feeling. Some viewers will feel like a circuit has been completed between themselves and the artist. But even if they don’t, the quest is worthwhile, and goes ever on.

I have played with this photo endlessly, converting it to monochrome, trying to enhance detail in selective parts of it, faking a tilt-shift focus, and I finally present it here exactly as I shot it. I am gently closer to liking it than at first, but I feel like this one will be a problem child for years to come. Maybe I’m full of farm compost and it is simply a train wreck. Maybe it’s “sincere but just misunderstood”. I’m okay either way. I can accept it for a near miss, since it becomes a reference point for trying the same thing with better success somewhere down the road.

And, if it’s actually good, well, of course, I meant to do that.


4 responses

  1. Well, when I look at your image the first thing that my eye is draw to is the dark tree as it seems to hold a lot of graphic weight in the image. But, then I look to the bottom right at the guy holding what appears to be a map and he looks a bit lost.
    For the most part you are correct in the statement and I have the same ? when viewing my shots keeper or krap. Sometimes the best thing is to sit on the image for a week or two and revisit it with fresh eyes and make the final decision.

    June 24, 2014 at 3:51 PM

  2. I appreciate your point. With some images you can never come to a final decision. I am glad to hear that others struggle with the same problem. By the way, thank you so much for your consistent support of THE NORMAL EYE. I value your input and hope you’ll feel free to comment as we go forward. I really love to hear from fellow shooters. It educates me and acts as a guiding force.

    June 24, 2014 at 10:46 PM

  3. My brother suggested I might like this web site.
    He was totally right. This post actually made my day.
    You can not imagine just how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

    August 25, 2014 at 6:37 AM

    • Thank you so much for your great comment, which has made MY day. THE NORMAL EYE is all about shared conversations and discoveries, and hearing that something we’ve wrestled with resonates with someone else is just the best payoff. Come back anytime and please continue to share your own experiences!

      August 25, 2014 at 7:55 AM

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