For a photographer, there are few things that truly matter. Strip away the promotion, the ego, the insecurity, the fear of being judged and the demands of career and what’s left are trace elements of what separates a picture from a photograph.
I can always tell someone’s talent level by how they speak about their work. Nobody of intent uses the term “shots.” “Did you get some shots?” they ask. No, no I didn’t. You might call this snobby. I call it educated, based on studying trends on a daily basis for nearly thirty years. “I’m gonna go take some photos,” is another I find telling. Go ahead, go. My guess is you will shoot what you have already seen.
Where does my harshness come from? It comes from the respect I have for photography. Real photography. Stripped down, isolated, personal, original work, often made under less than ideal circumstances by people who need it more than want it. The silent few who just pound it out brick by brick with no need for acknowledgment or clickable relevance.
For those of us who work this way, and yes I’m including myself in this group because it’s my site and I can, we cast no shadow of the watchful eye. There is no pressure to perform for outside eyes or forces. There is only the need to satisfy that inner lust for personal truth. Personal truth, or vision or habit perhaps. And to do so requires but few ingredients.
We begin and end with light. Not just the top of the pyramid, but the very latest dusting of fresh snow above the treeline. Without light, there is no cause. Light is the tripwire unleashing the full force of juices that merge to form photography.
The vast majority of the time a photographer is at idle. Waiting. Watching. Like a truckstop big rig. Running lights on, power on reserve. You can never turn it off but you can conserve until the time is right. Clutch in, geared to first and the foot slips off the brake. Light tells you when to move. Light giveth.
And when the move comes it sets in motion the machinery of imagery, the rest of the critical elements falling in line like soldiers at boot camp, small cogs in a massive machine running on the lubricants of life history, education, environment, training, patience, failure and the hunger of needing to know.
Intensely personal inclusion. A secret. A story you tell yourself. Voices. Internal dialogue. Doubt. But more than anything else; angle. The light of linear geometry. I’m here, it’s there. I move. Light is the two-wave hold down. We are never, ever in control and when it wants the light snuffs us out. The light is and will always be, undefeated.
Light taketh away. For those who have practiced enough to fully understand the laws of probability. How many more moments does one life have? The exact number escapes me but it’s less than you imagine. Those moments when the light is just right. Just ever so right. So when these moments come for someone like me there is pain involved. There is pressure. There is anguish. The anguish of knowing I must act and I must be forceful with my time and intent. Otherwise, I fail, it fails, we fail and then the pressure and pain are even worse.
The good stuff is always hidden behind the bar in the ornate black bottle. There is never enough, always in short supply and reserved for the chosen few with the goods to differentiate between rotgut and sublime. Good light comes in sips. It gives you just enough to know you want more, just enough to know if you take too much there will be repercussions.
So before you make your move turn and look down. What you see is your foundation. A life truly lived will have a spiderweb of cracks, but regardless of how jagged or deep the light finds a way. Without it, there is only dark.