Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wings and luck and ruthlessness

For a long time I have wished I knew how to do "street photography." Coupled with the fact that I have spent very little time on "the street" and often have not had ready access to same, and that I would feel silly photographing strangers in many cases...  Of course we have all seen the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Weegee, and Garry Winogrand, and many of us spent a lot of time with the black and white images in the dearly departed LIFE magazine. And so on and so forth. . .
There is an article on Winogrand in the latest Harper's Magazine. (February, 2013) When he died in 1984, at age 56, he left behind hundreds of thousands of pictures he had never actually looked at: 2,500 rolls of exposed but undeveloped film (my italics) and 4100 rolls of film that he had processed but not bothered to contact-print, and 3000 contact sheets he had only cursorily edited." (page 56)

"Often--far more often than critics and curators would like to admit--"genius" in photography is a matter of luck and ruthless editing." (page 61)

Twenty-five years later, after much effort, selections from these images will be on exhibit in San Francisco at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A great many people have been involved in this project. It ws felt that a true "retrospective" should include selected and excellent examples of his later work. Although sometimes the people that were working on the project wondered if they were being taken for a ride by a dead photographer while they waded through the heaps of images! I hope I will get to see this exhibit, which opens next March. I might be in California then.

So, I am thinking about my own images, especially the digital ones. Many times I have read how you are supposed to delete lots of them right away. I do delete, not very many though--only a few that are not in focus.

The photo above is not "good." The porch edges seem all askew. There isn't really a center of interest. It is fairly sharp, though. The ducks, in this cold snap, come right up to the house, practically demanding food. I haven't been feeding them every day, except for the last three days, when it was down to 0 degrees overnight. They crowd up, but when I open the door to bring out the cracked corn, they all take flight. This photo will always remind me of that time.
I have also sent out a lot of family slides and photos to be scanned. Some of these are not excellent in quality, but trigger good memories of family life.

But the times I took twenty or forty pictures of a pileated woodpecker at the feeder in Michigan. The times I took a lot of undistinguished shots during a birdwalk. These should have been sorted, classified, and most of them should now be gone. Tomorrow I will give some examples of playing with these "discards" and the things I have been able to do that please me. It's an example of the hoarder's mentality, which, alas, I have.

So here's to ruthless editing, and the distractions of play. Good night.
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