the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

ONE STORY AT A TIME

Capital Capitol, 2015. A re-cropped and post-processed remix of a casual 2007 snapshot.

Capital Capitol, 2015. A re-cropped and post-processed remix of a casual 2007 snapshot.

By MICHAEL PERKINS

BEING A MULTI-TASKER IS NO LONGER A MATTER OF CHOICE. We love to pretend that we’re adept at turning off selective parts of the hurricane of sensory input that comprises the whole of our daily life, but, fact is, we cannnot. You might be able to do as few as three things at a time in this world, but only if you struggle against a constant cacophony of sensations.

Unfortunately, creating art sometimes requires quiet, clarity, the ability to edit out unwanted sights and sounds in order to find a clear path toward a coherent vision. And this impacts photography as well as any other creative enterprise.

The 2007 original, taken from a Circle Line tour boat.  There was a picture hiding in here, but it took me seven years to find it.

The 2007 original, taken from a  NYC Circle Line tour boat. 

Urban life presents an especially big challenge to this urge to “get clear”, to untangle conflicting stories and draw out clean, direct messages for our images. Major cities are like 24-hour whistle factories, with thousands of things screaming for our attention. Thing is, there just isn’t enough attention to go around. Often, in poring over old projects, we find that a fourth, a third, even half of the information in a picture can be extracted in the editing process and still leave more than enough data to get our point across. And herein lies a problem.

If it’s getting harder and harder to edit in the moment to boil a photograph down to its essence, the editing phase becomes more crucial than ever before. You either get the best picture in the taking or in the remaking. It can be argued that practice helps the photographer learn to quickly ferret out simple stories within a mass of visual noise, and, of course, the more you shoot, the more you learn what not to shoot. But it seems inevitable that editing, and re-editing, will become a bigger part of the overall task of making pictures.

If the weakest of your photographic skills is post-processing, you might strongly consider upping that particular part of your game. The world isn’t slowing down anytime soon. It’s great to know, in an instant, how to make a strong image. But, as my dad always said, that’s why God put erasers on pencils. Editing can be where acceptable pictures buff up into contenders.

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