By MICHAEL PERKINS
THE NON-STOP SELF-PROMOTION OF PHOTOGRAPHY (of which I am certainly a part) that has been created by the internet seems, to me, to center as much on explaining our pictures to each other verbally as it does trying to give them more impact visually. That is to say that we gab a lot a lot a lot about how we got our result, with increasingly text-heavy captions on the precise settings and processing that went into the project. Sometimes, it seems as if we believe that, if we gab enough, that alone will make the pictures more special.
I don’t believe that is true, which is why The Normal Eye has never been about “how I did it” as much as “why I did it.” For me, it’s simple: motivation outranks technique. Every. Single. Time.
Come To Me, All Ye That Are Burdened, 2022
I have never written a single caption that succeeded in “explaining” a picture, that made it a better storyteller than it already was. In trying to explain an image, I sometimes feel I am only calling attention to its poor power to make its own case. Any words I add to detail the execution of a photo prove inadequate to illustrate the special something that occurs (or fails to occur) once I’ve made a series of technical calculations. Such footnotes cannot express my motivations or dreams. They don’t make plain why, sometimes, I do everything “correctly”, and yet wind up with a picture where nothing is “right”…..or, more importantly, how, other times, despite my having fouled up every possible bit of intentional planning, the picture is unmistakably just there, that it somehow fought its way into life despite my own utter ineptitude. As an example, the above image is one that, in terms of technique, I have made dozens of times. And yet, this one, for me, made it into some other category. Something, if you’ll excuse the expression, clicked.
Finally, why even bother to make a picture if you can express your feelings better in words? How can you talk enough to redeem a shot that, essentially, didn’t work? Is a poor image any clearer because we slather more talk on top of it, like frosting a tasteless cake? Captions are occasionally a necessary evil, and, to the extent that they convey purely technical information, like lens or aperture used, they can at least be instructive on a purely technical level. But they don’t explain what a picture does or does not convey.
That is the picture’s job.
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