LIFE AS IT ALMOST IS
By MICHAEL PERKINS
PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO CUT THEIR TEETH ON ASSIGNED SHOOTS, usually at the behest of some outside employer or editor, have a natural propensity to cut to it, to speedily seek out the heart of the action and eke out the central story. Arrive at the scene of the fire. Determine who is in charge, and where the crisis of the immediate moment is. Shoot pictures of same. Lather rinse repeat.
But even those trained to shoot the very peak of drama in a given scene can occasionally find something interesting in what has not yet happened or what just happened. Many events seem to emerge with some advance staging, and some yield either interesting aftermaths or epilogs if you’re patient enough to look for them. In our visual reporting, we understandably focus on the books on the shelf, but in fact the bookends, or the vase of flowers to the left and right of those tomes might also have something worth capture.
On the morning I shot this, I was understandably eager to get beyond the parking lot of a Ventura beach and down to the beach itself, assuming that the day’s typical harvest of dog-walkers, swimmers, and surfers would give me a few easy grabs. To be honest, a big part of the reason for taking this frame was to test my settings and see how my telephoto would compress things that were fairly far away from each other….a worthy consideration when shooting tight over really vast spaces. But just as you might find interest in a shot of actors and stage hands milling about just before the theatre curtain rises, I kinda liked the smashed composition of several folks talking, flexing, lifting and unloading as they prepared to hit the beach. I liked the “nearly there” aspect of it. Life as it almost is, or is about to be.
I firmly believe that sometimes we either shoot too early or too late on either side of a central story. But I also think that time is just a lot of little major and minor stories stitched together, and so there are always choices as to which of an infinite number of narratives we decide to extract in a given moment. Turns out, I lucked into several others on this day. But showing the seams where one story ends as another begins can be a good gig, as well.