Circles of Confusion
I don’t know about you, but every now and then I have to stop and think about what we reallymean when we parrot back some of the concepts so many of us take for granted about photography. Right now, I’m hung up on the old saw we roll out whenever we attempt to differentiate ourselves from the great unwashed masses wielding their iPhones and their selfie sticks.
It’s the one attributed to the very quotable Ansel Adams, the one that implies that there is some kind of noble difference between “taking” and “making” a picture.
So many rookie photographers say that they don’t know what to photograph, they don’t have any ideas of their own, so they simply copy what’s already been done. Don’t get me wrong- imitation is one of the ways we learn. Like almost every other photographer who came of age in the 60s and 70s, I wouldn’t have spent my working life working with a camera if I hadn’t first seen the work of Robert Frank and Lee Friedlander, and then spent years trying to reshoot their pictures.
He approached me from behind, disheveled just enough to not be mistaken for some regular guy in jeans and sneakers and a ball cap. Slurring his words and carrying a mixed sixer (three bottles of Coors Light and three cans of something I didn’t recognize), he asked me if I was a photographer.
“I am”, I said.