A Continuing Struggle

Every day, I am thrown into a continuing struggle between recognizing what makes a photograph outstanding and inserting that quality into my work. Great work has a quality that can't be defined, yet is universally recognizable. With that being the case, as an artist, reaching this level is infuriating. With each photograph, I hope that the magical combination of timing and placement has benefited me, that the Gods have thrown me a bone. Shooting is exciting, developing rolls is exciting, reviewing the scans is not. Consciously capturing an undefinable quality, I'm realizing, is an exercise in futility.

I can compose a photo. I can pick out what to add or subtract from my frame. Regarding that missing 1%, I am stumped. In my free time, I look through my little collection of photo books and my jaw drops when observing what those before me captured while using the same equipment as myself.

Sometimes, these moments are unplanned: a little girl's smile, a man peeking out from his umbrella for a second, two posh dogs seemingly walking their rich owners. Happy accidents.

In my last batch of scans, one of the best photos was one I took when advancing to the first frame on my M2. I wasn't even looking through the viewfinder! If that can work but my inspired attempts at composition do not, what have I learned? Anything? After five years of shooting, I am marginally closer to understanding what I'm doing and why.

I think about quitting every day. I won't, but it crosses my mind. Photography represents a unique problem: timing. Illustrators can return to their drawing pad, painters, to their easel. With photography, your canvas and subjects are moving. You must recognize the moment and freeze it perfectly while under immense time constraints. Milliseconds matter.

Photography is a mercurial art. I am nowhere near cracking its inner workings. Despite the frustrations and the expense, I am still searching.

André Kertész - East Walk of Conservatory Pond, Central Park, 1944

André Kertész - East Walk of Conservatory Pond, Central Park, 1944

Ken Schles - Melanie at Veselka, 1986

Ken Schles - Melanie at Veselka, 1986

David Godlis - Patti Smith, Bowery, 1976

David Godlis - Patti Smith, Bowery, 1976