Time For A New Photograph

Long time ago, when I was but a teen, maybe right on the cusp, just getting interested in photography, my father and I sat up one evening to watch a PBS thing about Ansel Adams.  To this day I cannot find that film—it included a project of his photographing a Hispanic family living on a scrub farm, very rural, lots of kids.  He was working with both 4X5 and a Hasselblad.  It was a detailed film, taking the viewer through the whole process, from shutter-click to processing, to printing.  It had a substantial impact on me and I would like to find that film again, but I’ve even been to the Ansel Adams Museum in San Fransisco and they profess not to know what I’m talking about.  I doubt I dreamed it—until that point I had no idea who Ansel Adams was.

In any event, there was a tone and approach to the whole enterprise that impressed me.  The man was meticulous, an artist, and he said the word “Photograph” with a kind of reverence that has stuck with me.  They weren’t “pictures”, certainly not “snapshots”, but PHOTOGRAPHS, spoken with a breathy exhalation on first consonant.  I came to associate the word with the best work, the images that really seem to work.  By that token, I have made very few photographs in my life, at least according to the standards I maintain.

But I’ve reached a point where even the effort to make one merits the appellation, so I tend to call every image I make that is supposed to be serious art (whether it succeeds or not) a Photograph.  Vanity on my part.

For instance:


I’d like to flatter myself that this is the kind of image that merits the term.  It’s about the symmetry, the balance of the spaces, and the range of tones.  It takes something ordinary and attempts to transform into both a concrete record and an abstract.  Using black & white strips the image to its compositional elements while at the same time the tonal treatment yields nuance.

Lot of hyperbolic nonsense there.  The main thing is, I like it, it appeals to me, and I hope it’s the kind of thing that will reward multiple viewings.  Like any piece of art, the test is whether or not it exhausts itself after one exposure or if it will stand up to repeated inspection.  That I can’t answer.  Not yet.  A lot of my photographs I enjoy looking at still, many of the older black & whites especially.

Oh, that’s another thing.  I tend to think of a Photograph as black & white.  This is prejudice, pure and simple, and early programming.  I have to consciously regard color works as Photographs—and I do—but when I hear the word I immediately, automatically, think black & white.  Apologies to all the very fine color photographers out there.

Anyway, I thought I’d blow my trumpet this morning and indulge a little self-image fantasizing.  Now we can all return to what we were before.  Thank you for your attention and kind consideration.