At the end of the day

I had a brief exchange with someone today about writing and photography.  Alex is not only a talented film photographer, but an equally talented writer.  His point: the stories behind the images we make give the pictures far greater weight than any story that is inferred by the image itself… or at least that’s what I though he meant.   Like me he also enjoys pairing the image and the story behind the image, and while I tend to agree with him the conversation got me thinking as well.  Do truly powerful photographs need an explanation? 

I just realized that if Sarah Jessica Parker were reading this out loud it would sounds like the Lens Culture episode of Sex in the City.*  

It seems to me that if you have to explain an image in order for it to have weight than I wonder if perhaps you’ve failed in your task of creating a compelling image.  I want you, dear viewer, dear patron of the arts, to be drawn in to one of my images–be curious for more–lean in and have some sort of response.  You may hate it or you may love it but the one thing I don’t want to have happen is for you to feel nothing.  That’s failure.  Hate’s better than nothing.  To Alex’s original point, the text should be there to support the image but not to prop it up.  I think my goal with these little stories is to add some additional context to it all.  To pull back the curtain back, or construct some outlandish narrative, or just explain what was in my head, if there was indeed anything in there at all (as there rarely tends to be).  These musing are simply just that: musings.  

But even as I write it, I’m still conflicted… I love reading other’s musing as much as I love writing my own and I enjoy the photos of others with that added context.  There’s not a single person who can say that they don’t enjoy Gilden’s photography more after watching interviews with him or footage of him stalking the streets of New York, pouncing on his subjects with his flash held high in left, kneeling low and shooting high with his right.  Or what about Winogrand in Venice, or Arbus or any of the photographers you/we idolize?  Their images all have the benefit of interviews and videos and forwards and afterwards and onwards and upwards to fame that we unknown photographers have yet to achieve or transcribe.  All of these things add context.  Some of the things are the context.   

At the end of the day, the image needs to stand on it’s own though–that much I know.   Shot on a Mamiya 6MF at 50mm on Tri-X 400 film pushed to 800 at the Icon.      

*Note to reader: “italics” infer inner-monolog

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