Monday, 6 September 2010
They think it's all over (2)
And for some, it is.
HCB said that once he'd pressed the shutter, that was the end of it as far as he was concerned (though the plethora of books of his photographs might indicate otherwise). What about you? Is the shutter going clunk only the beginning? Of course many photographers process their own digital images. But do you yearn to see the image used, preferably somewhere public? Best even on a giant billboard somewhere? Or on the cover of a magazine? Or is that it for you?
Pull up a sandbag.... I used to love printing my own negs, though only in b&w. It was in the darkroom that I felt a 'real' photographer, or at least a complete one. I don't get the same experience from sitting in front of Photoshop, but this isn't "I wish we were back in the old days" daydream, because I adore digital photography too.
It seems that photographers (I hate the slang togs) fall into two broad Camps: those that belong to the one where the taking of the picture is the final act, and the other where it is only the beginning. Actually, I think there's a third Camp that just want to talk about the kit, and sod the actual act of photography, but let's disregard them here.
If I shoot for a client, the end for me is really when the shutter trips, though I have an academic interest in seeing the published choice. I'd love to ask them why they didn't use my favourite frame if that's the case, but I know my place. Today I found out that a novelist I had photographed earlier in the year lobbied the editor of the magazine I was shooting for, begging for such and such a shot not to be used. He got his way.
All sorts of influences are at work in a final frame choice, that we as photographers are rarely privy to. I clearly remember discovering for the first time that the picture editor (picture commissioner in effect) who received my carefully crafted images did NOT make the final decision. That was left to a features editor. I couldn't believe it. I soon got over it, that's the publishing world. And why shouldn't the editor have the final say?
I used to fantasise of a an environment where the art director and photographer worked hand in hand to decide what should be shot, and which images used. It happened, infrequently, but the death knell seemed to be the reduction of easy access to the office, made more and more difficult with increased security measures (I'm thinking of newspapers in the early 1990s). And also the work load. Then, at least one had to turn up with the film, process it, and hand the edits to the picture editor in person. Now, it's sent by ftp. (Is there anyone from across the water who thinks ftp stands for something other than file transfer protocol?)
Is this a bad thing? Does it matter that art director and photographer seldom meet over the lightbox? I think it's a shame it doesn't happen, but most magazine staff will tell you that if they had the time for it they would spend more time collaborating. And do busy photographers have time for face to face photo editing either? If you photograph gardens how much interaction is there with the person writing about the garden? Are you both there on the same day? Did you know that they were going to write about the irises more than the grasses? (You did photograph the irises didn't you?) Bear in mind that this is the editorial world.
Just to round this up, I've thought of a Camp Four, those that love looking at photographs (their own and others) more than taking them, but who also take them for a living. And does one take a photograph or make one?
(Photo shows playwright John Patrick Shanley. Photographers choice of frame.)