Saturday, July 09, 2005

The Found Image

—click on the image to see it larger—

To crop or not to crop, is that really the question? I'm not sure where or when the inclination or the "rule" to always print full frame came from. Back when I was getting a degree in Photography (late 70's) it was chic to file out your negative carriers to enable you to print the black edges around the image (the frame). It was cool, and more importantly it showed that you didn't crop your image, which showed your vision and that you were a good photographer. I always found it a litte pretentious.

I was shooting with a TLR back then, so I didn't care. I had to deal the dreaded square format, for crying out loud. That said, I supposed I am predisposed not to crop when possible, or at the very least to maintain the aspect ratio of the format. I shoot 35mm now, and it is important for me to maintain that ratio, I like it and find it dynamic. But I'll crop an image and have no problem doing so, so long as the ratio is maintained. I've even cheated on that too, but rarely.

Often a good image is just an adjustment away, and shooting on the street with 35mm and 28mm lenses you're bound to get more than you intended. Those are tough angles to shoot with. You have to be right up in someone's face to really "include" them in the frame. Shooting quickly your inclination is to get the shot, first and foremost. BTW, one of the greatest things about shooting with a 28mm lens is being able to look like you're not including someone in your field of vision, when in fact you are. Once in the 40 or 50mm range and above, for get about it. You point your camera to include someone in your picture, they're gonna know it.

Serendipity, synchronicity, and signs, I've never put much weight in them until I began photographing again. Things happen to us everyday. Signs and patterns repeat all around us and with a camera you can catch them and they can speak to you, tell you things, show you things, reveal themselves. It is uncanny how an image can create itself.

The image I've included today (see above) was buried in a frame. I shot this with a cranky little Olympus XA. I parked myself in front of this mural for several weeks straight. I don't know why. I'd take my lunch at this spot just to sit in front of this mural and click pictures of people passing in front of it. I was trying for something similar to an earlier image I had made, wherein a woman passed in front of the mural, and I made the exposure. In the final result, because of the slow shutter speed, she seemed to flow into and out of the mural (courtesy of the shutter speed blur). I thought it was cool (see below).

On my last shoot of the mural, I could feel myself losing interest. I had been shooting at it; I was randomly clicking away between bites of broccoli beef and chow mein. I remember there was this guy sitting in front and off to the right side that must have seen me clicking away, because he got pissed-off and stood up and grumpily changed seats to one behind me. I thought it was a little funny. He had a mouth full of food and acted like he was just trying to eat, perform this basic necessity, and had to put up with me. I didn't care. I clicked the final shots and left. I didn't shoot anymore. I had lost interest. I processed the film later that week. It was TriX and I used D76. I was disappointed with the general compositions that resulted, until I started cropping and saw the image above. I just loved it. It was pure serendipity and a beautiful arrangement. The image is a major crop, full of the subsequent resulting grain, but so cool in how it came out. I've since called it "Conversation Muse."

I didn't make this image. It made itself. I just pressed the shutter, and found the message, the sign. I'm not unfamiliar with this process of being a facilitator, or an enabler of an image or creation.

I majored in film, and one of my most amazing experiences is being the "creator," or "director" of a film. You plan it, write it, storyboard it, and in the end, you have no control over it at all. Something happens to it. It becomes its own being, and you are just along for the ride, enabling it. In the end it's your film, but not your film. It's beautiful. That was when I realized that it wasn't the end result, but the process of creation that is important, rewarding, and fulfilling. I wish I had had the money, and the wherewithal back then to make more films, but life got in the way. That's cool too, though.