I work in a building with windows that overlook Tacoma streets. We are often treated to amazing clouds and contrasts and fall colors. As I drop down the hill every morning in the early light, I'm almost invariably craving my camera. But I don't take it to work with me, in part, for the following reason.
We snap so many photos. There are so many photos that don't really hold meaning; many are abstract lines and colors brought to our attention with pleasing light, shadow, and lightroom manipulation. When I'm done, there it is, yet another image. Do I want to post it? No, I guess not. Just close lightroom.
Every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of some rich, perfect, hazy combination of light and color and contrast that catches my eye, and I think, "there's a picture there, get your camera." But then I doubt it. After all, it's a little corner of a larger landscape. What's the subject, what's the composition, it's just a corner, a hill, a cloud? This happened this week, and I really felt desperate to take the picture, but my camera was at home. And it set me to wondering, is that image more than just a self-indulgence? Is there something there that would be a genuinely good photo? Something that people should see? Maybe if I stood a model in front of it? But then it would disappear in the bokeh. and what model? it would all be contrived and meaningless.
My photographing pace has slowed to a crawl in this analysis, this sense that my photography has gotten technically better, but it wanders around, cataloging nothing, conveys only a manipulated view of a contrived, barely-existant story. How can I say this better? I think my idea is a question about what makes a photo more than just a waste of storage space. What makes a photo exceptional? I take a photo of my dog. Another photo of my dog. I can lightroom it so that you look at it and say, "That's an amazing photo of that dog." Or I take a photo of Mt. Rainier, one of thousands I have taken over the years. What makes this one different? Nothing.
I want any photo that I present to be something that is important to me, that I experienced, that has aesthetic value. It distinctly needs not to be random. If I have an image that pleases me, but i run it through this filter, this question of whether it's just a random meaningless image, very often it will fail the test and will either get deleted or set aside for some imaginary day when it'll come to my attention again.
This is the art of photography for me.