New York Details - 86, 2010
Over at Flickr I’ve been showing pictures of “details” lately, usually pieces of buildings that are interesting to me and yet so much a part of the real estate that they go unnoticed by many who pass by them daily.
This past weekend I was looking at a series of published photographs shot by an acquaintance. Almost all of them are highly styled fashion shots and portraits. Most have obviously undergone substantial post-processing.
There’s nothing wrong with highly styled and substantially post-processed photographs, of course. I’ve never had much interest in that kind of photography. But I admire good examples of it when I see them.
In that same post, I further broke the Observers into Composers and Reactors.
When she was young, my daughter didn’t stand a chance. If we were walking in a city with an interesting built up environment, you can be sure she was reminded to look at the structures from different perspectives, to figure out what the designer of the building might have been thinking as he or she conceived of this space and what inspirations might have influenced it’s look, shape, size and texture. If my daughter saw a structure that was interesting, she was encouraged to examine the structure and try to figure out what it was about it that made it interesting to her. She learned a lot about proportions this way. Details, too.
But more importantly, she conditioned her senses to recognize patterns and spatial relationships, to distinguish between the familiar and the new and to figure out what it was about things that made them interesting, successful or not.
In my earlier post, I suggested that Composers assemble the scene they want if what appears naturally before their eyes needs a little styling. I mean, who hasn’t removed litter, re-arranged chairs or brought something colorful into an otherwise dull scene in the interest of making a more interesting photograph?
Reactors, on the other hand, don’t mess much with what nature and man have provided them. They want to be more journalistic in their approach, honest about what they encounter and how it’s presented, warts and all. They’re conflicted when it comes to altering anything in the frame lest it add additional bias to the viewer’s interpretation of the scene.
So where does all of this connect? What point am I trying to make?
It’s that it’s not enough to be curious. It’s not enough to sit around waiting for the image to form in front of your eyes. It’s not enough to leave success to chance. Rather, comparing my Details photographs to my friend’s highly styled images, it occurred to me that I’d left out a characteristic, an important one and perhaps even one that defines a whole segment of photographers.
I’m referring, of course, to the Examiners, those of us who don’t just walk around waiting for revelations to appear before us, but rather walk around purposely examining the world around us. We aren’t looking for anything specific. But we are looking up close at the details, lifting the leaves out of the way and pulling the curtains aside to see what’s behind them. We’re just trying to find the beauty, the simplicity, the elegance and sometimes the confusion behind the pieces of our everyday lives.