SOMETHING’S LOST, BUT SOMETHING’S GAINED
By MICHAEL PERKINS
AGAINST MY BETTER JUDGEMENT, I OFTEN SUCCUMB to the allure of those endless Facebook memes which pose a mathematical conundrum, i.e., “6 + 10 x 4- 3 – 8 x 3 x 3=? or some such other brain torture. I always labor long and sincerely over the solution, and I am always, always wrong. Instead of spending the rest of my declining years admitting that, sorry, numerical concepts are not my forte, and going my way in peace, I instead keep returning to the scene of the beating and begging for yet another blow.
(This is the part where I attempt to make a tenuous connection to photography. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it..
So here’s my pitch; when it comes to the process of making pictures, I love the endless process of addition and subtraction, the ongoing calculation of where, in an image, information needs to be either included or eliminated. Half my process in composing is spent in determining what size the frame should be, and the other half is deciding what deserves to make the cut within that box. Many other aspects the making of the image, from exposure to the whole color/mono choice, or even subject selection is colored by the initial decision about what will or won’t earn its bit of real estate within a picture.
If the right choices are made, then what I call the Joni Mitchell Balance (i.e., “something’s lost, but something’s gained”) will be struck in such a way as to maximize the impact of the photo. Or not. Sometimes you have to settle for Close, since Totally There is off the menu. Take these two shots as an example. The subject was originally mastered in color (see top), and deliberately under-exposed to quiet the effect of color in comparison with the the three figures on the right. Turns out that even the minimal hues I got were still too distracting, and so I converted to mono (directly above), since I felt that the trio, albeit with a great deal of non-defined detail, were the real stars of the picture. meaning that anything that did more than force the eye in their direction was expendable. I remember hearing the old western classic “Ghost Riders In The Sky” as I snapped the frame, and the idea of figures who destinations or aims would forever be shrouded in mystery appealed to me.
Like those blamed Facebook add/subtract/multiply/divide exercises, the picture required careful calculation and re-calculation. However, photography is much more forgiving than math, and so, at least when making pictures, I will never have to settle for the assertion that there is but one single correct answer to the problem. It’s an admittedly sloppier way to see the universe, but (brace yourself, now) it adds up, at least for me.
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