The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Learn to see the quality of your work

“You see, the hard part of photography has never been technology, but rather the more difficult process of artmaking — a process that is stubbornly unsolvable through technological means and remains the sole province of the human heart, the human mind, and human soul.” ― Brooks Jensen, The Creative Life in Photography

Listening to a short audio piece by Brooks Jensen, a fine-art photographer, I was reminded of the challenging process to look through the pictures I’ve made and deleting as many of them as possible. In that audio piece, he was sharing that in his beginnings he would go out with a roll of 36 pictures believing all should turn out well. After a while, he learned to consider having one good picture on a roll of 36 pictures as a success. He continues his explanation by stating that after years of photography, he didn’t increase that 2,8% rate of good pictures but instead reduced it to 2,2%. It is the rate of images he uses in projects and has been editing. He hopes for himself, that it is the result of having become pickier.

At the stage I’m in, my challenge is to decide which pictures I find bad enough to delete them. It’s a regular process of engaging with the pictures and having some rigor in deciding what it is that makes me like some and delete others. Looking back at some old archives I can see that I’m much better at that than I used to be. But there still is quite a bit of work to do.

Making a picture is like having an idea and trying to capture it. Over the years photographers become better at it. But once the idea is captured, the picture still isn’t made. And that is where the work becomes an extension of one’s style. In the past, it was much about developing the negative and how it is used to create the picture. Today it most often is editing the digital image. Choosing how to do it and how much will transform the picture to crystalize the original idea.

Inevitably, it is that process that teaches us the most about the pictures we make and want to make. It is a consequence of asking oneself what it is one wants to change. Seeing how to make it happen or learning that it cannot be done. And most of it is how our emotional reaction helps us see what it is that we like and don’t like. That is until we learn to phrase these into rules we’ll follow and the style we define. That is when our art becomes clearer to us.

Until then we’ve not yet engaged beyond liking or disliking. Which means that we are waiting for luck to hit us.

We haven’t engaged enough with our work to be able to describe what quality means to us.

This is true for any work I’ve engaged in.


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