Tuesday, January 22

The Limits To Photography

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Where’s he coming from and how long has it taken him to arrive here? Where’s he going, and has he time left to get there? From the light can you tell? Has he a day ahead of him, or is he racing an oncoming night?

My camera can only seize the midpoint of an unknown tale. Even with all the power of my tools the still image blocks my ability to do more than shape your thoughts and emotions. Here is a peculiar and poignantly eloquent moment of a bicycling man in the light of an angular sun. An instant in time, arrested and acutely realized in an extraordinary setting with all the intensity that I can command.

But his story, like all stories, will pass through life’s complications until it’s resolved. I’m not sure that a photograph can ever resolve stories. And if it can’t – can it tell them at all? Or do photographers instead pump story ideas into your imagination machine?

Simply put, this image is theatrical, or cinematic, but I wonder if still photographs can ever be theater or film. Hmmm…..


Today's image kicked up a deep discussion on an important forum. There were allusions to the enhancements which I did to try to create a story. Here's what went into my process.

I recall standing at a Florentine street corner that was historically ornamented by stunning medieval v artists. I was wondering what I could bring to this place when I saw him coming down that hill to the left and I immediately began to take pictures... four, five, six. But the pedestrians packed my frame, each with their own stories to tell. So, I decided that I'd choose one of the images and use the others for parts later on to cover over the other people with doorways and fountain, and roadway. I don't work with a tripod, so I tried to stay as still in the location as possible and to take a number of shots.

Here above is the original of my bike rider. You can compare it to the final image above to see how I tell... not so much the man's... but my story in which he stars. Like any dramatist, I enhanced the palette, lighting, textures, angle, and emphasized the linear perspective to create the illusionist art that photographic story tellers do (whether in advertising, photojournalistic,or pure fictional imagery).

I'm pleased with my image and with the narrative it illustrates in my mind.


Andreas said...

Ahh yes, those cruel restrictions! Always everything in motion, fleeting, no place to rest your eyes, always forced to follow a simple path that has been prescribed by someone else. And worst of all: there is always the banality of an ending. Will movies ever be able to achieve the ambiguity of a still image??

Or can it be OK to have different media for different purposes? No??


Debra Trean said...

Man you are amazing to change what you have to arrive at the final image. Amazing I wish I had your eye and could do the same. I am very surprised to hear you do not use a tripod!! I can not shoot without mine anymmore.

Ted said...

(pnf) Nope, no tripods in my life. There is one buried somewhere in my cellar on the shelves that are crammed with thirty year old gee-gaws and Spiratone gadgets. But it's just too much fuss for me. It seems to steal my spontaneity. To each his/her own, right?

(Andreas) This image generated a ton of discussion on some of the forums, and a torrent of visits here (this was the largest visitor day ever). And I think you have made the most trenchant single comment. Yes, different media have different purposes. I guess the purpose of the ambiguous still image will survive into the future, but I hope not as the anachronism like say, black and white photography has become.