Today is going to be a little bit of a continuation of what I wrote after Tracy Turpen’s death a few months ago. I realize that was the moment when my renewed initiative to post regularly went by the wayside. I don’t think it’s cause and effect, exactly, but it gave me some perspective, and helps me now when I go through my photos and look at them, and edit them, and critique them.
I don’t know exactly what my blog audience is–I know some are photographers, I know some are friends, and family. I know some are strangers that are happening by, hoping to find a review of the Xpro-1 or the new Canon 5D mark III (yes, I’ve pre-ordered one). A great many have happened by looking for news about Tracy, testament to the indelible mark she has left on the world. This blog is, I guess, for the photographers after my own heart, but maybe (hopefully) it will speak to others outside of that.
“Oh no!” you’re thinking, “here he goes rambling on again.” Since I don’t know who my audience is exactly, I’m just going to go ahead and push on, in my way, and just write this how I want.
Anyway. As a photographer with a great deal of time and money invested in the pursuit of beautiful, interesting, and/or compelling images, I have a large collection of photos of all sorts of things–some sublime, some mundane. This is both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes it is hard to see the forest for the trees, and sometimes hard to see the individual trees in the forest.
If I’m not shooting something with an obvious theme–like a wedding!–I am often wandering about with some vague notion of what I want to shoot in my mind. Sometimes I want to shoot with a specific lens, sometimes I want to shoot for a specific look, sometimes I just want to be out shooting. Sometimes I find what I’m looking for, sometimes I end up with nothing, sometimes I end up with a bunch of shots I thought I didn’t want.
A lot of times, if those images don’t fit into whatever particular something I was trying to communicate, I dismiss them, edit them out, move on. Importantly, though, I very rarely delete things that might have some merit or interest. You see, I know I am capricious and subjective and let emotions and circumstance cloud my judgement. I know that I am fickle and a perfectionist. I know that sometimes I move past a photo because of some perceived defect that bothers me to death, but isn’t really relevant in the grand scheme of things.
I have read a lot recently about not going through and editing your photos right after you’ve shot them, instead letting them sit for an hour, or a day, or a week, or a year, before going back and looking at them, and deciding which shots make the cut and which don’t. I don’t follow this line of thought exactly, but I see its point and its merit. I do try not to delete in-camera unless the shot is obviously a disaster, and I try not to delete on computer unless there is a compelling reason. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of photos on my hard drive that may never see the light of day. But sometimes, whatever little niggle was bothering me about a photo six months ago, will now be a non-issue.
I may finally go back to a photo and appreciate the content over the technical aspects, which is what’s really important about all of this, anyway. And that’s what Tracy’s legacy to me is, at least for now. She helps remind me, as I go through photos, of what is important in my photos. It’s not that the photo was shot on a 5D at f/16, or that I used a slow shutter, or that the subject’s eyes aren’t perfectly in focus. It’s that the photos, with all their warts and bumps and imperfections, tell a story about me and my world. They tell my story, and the stories of my friends, and the stories of my home, and the stories of my travels. They reveal things about me, and about other people. They communicate, they amuse, they document.
I’m not suggesting here that you if you are a serious photographer that you shouldn’t care about the technical stuff. God knows I have to try hard not to geek out about gear every time I make a blog post. But I am suggesting that you think twice before you delete an image, or that you give yourself that space for perspective. I know that not every image I take will be perfect (or any, for that matter), or compelling, or widely appealing. But I know that, in general, I took that photo for a reason, and that that reason may matter to someone somewhere someday. That someone might be me, and it might strike future me for reasons that didn’t occur to present or past me. Or it might tell me something new in a way I didn’t see before. Or maybe it will still be boring, but at least I will have let it have its chance.