Thursday, August 18, 2011

More Than a Print

Malibu 001, 20110

I was talking to a friend the other day about lottery tickets. He’s a CPA and simply can’t imagine how anyone could be so foolish as to justify the investment in a lottery ticket, given the monstrous odds of losing.
As it happens, I’ve done a lot of research among people who buy lottery tickets. I explained that nobody who buys a Lottery ticket really expects to win it (though in most cases someone will). The real value of the dollar spent on that ticket is the license it gives the buyer to enjoy a day of dreaming about what he’d do if he did won. That dreaming is limitless and, as such, is a darned good return on the investment of a single dollar, if you ask me.
I’m not sure if my friend bought this. Dreams don’t count for much on balance sheets. But whether he did or didn’t, I went ahead and used the metaphor of the lottery ticket buyers’ pleasure as a bridge into a conversation about all the different ways a photo can provide pleasure.
Did you ever hear that old saying about firewood; how it heats four times? (When you chop it, when you split it, when you move it and when you burn it.)
Photography’s a lot like that.
For some people, photography’s all about the print, that piece of paper that has chemicals or ink arranged on it in such a way as to portray a place, a person, a thing, or an event or moment in time that existed only as long as the camera’s shutter stayed open.
I can understand this point of view. Why would you take pictures if you weren’t thinking about how they were going to, as we used to say in the days of film, “turn out”? 
For me photography is too much like chopping wood to be reduced to just that single physical outcome. For the curious person, the camera is like the lottery ticket in that once it’s in our hands it’s a license to go looking around. You get to decide where you’re going to go and what you’re going to look for. You get the pleasure of thinking about how you’re going to frame what you photograph and all the ways you could interpret that moment. These days you get the immediate pleasure of taking a quick peek at what you’ve shot and the additional pleasure of looking at it on a larger screen when you get back home.
I’m leaving out a lot of steps. But you get the point. Photography provides satisfaction at any number of points between the time you pick up the camera and the time you see the finished print. Revel in all of those moments as long as you can. And if you should end up with a print or two that is satisfying to you, look upon that as the icing on the cake, the high point in a day well spent.


  1. Photography is all that and more for me in that it gets me off my butt and out of the house now that I'm retired, takes me to places I've never been before as I wander the back roads looking for things to shoot and keeps me out of my wife's hair.

  2. hahaaaa--love Chip's comment. Another great Malibu shot.