Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Not Taking Pictures of What We're Taking Pictures Of

Brooks Jensen, editor of Lenswork, recently posted a humorous podcast entitled "That's Not What We Do" in which he recounts an incident while shooting in a park with a friend. He and photographer Joe Lipka were photographing at Fort Warden, WA. At some point, Joe went to the tourist center and got noticed by the woman at the service counter, who inquired about what he and Brooks were doing. Upon explaining that they were both photographers, the woman suggested they talk to the park manager, who was interested in buying some tourist shots to sell. Joe politely explained that neither he nor his other photographer friend take those kinds of pictures. Seeing that the woman was puzzled by his answer - after all, he is standing there with a bunch of camera equipment; what would all that gear be used for if not "taking pictures"? - Joe offered a the following line (that I suspect is familiar to most fine-art photographers placed in a similar situation): "We make pictures that don't look like pictures of what we're taking pictures of." I only wish I were there to see the look of confusion on the poor woman's face!
I've already blogged about my personal favorite story of this type, namely the one about Brett Weston returning from a trip to London with a handful of pictures of rust from the London bridge. Here are a few from my own archives. Any one of my numerous trips to Great Falls State Park in Virginia typically result in shot after shot of totally "unrecognizable" shots of rocks; big rocks, small rocks, rock formations, you name it. "Where were these taken in again?" I'm usually asked.
Last year, in the autumn, when my family and I all went to Cox Farms for hay rides and pumpkin picking, "daddy the family photographer" was busy clicking away with his camera, but not necessarily at the kids or the rides they were going on. Among the more recognizable shots I came away with that day was this one...
...which at least has the virtue of being recognizably "something" (if not exactly declaring, "I was taken at Cox Farms!").
When we took a similar family outing to a local apple orchard for apple picking, daddy got two shots of an old barn (recounted in a previous blog entry) and this "Shot Taken While Apple Picking" shot...
And then there are my "beach" shots. Sand, water, waves, toddlers frolicking on the shore, sunbathers,...? Nah! Sissy stuff for fine-art photographers ;-) Here's a keeper from last summer's sojourn to a beach in Key Biscayne, Florida:
...which I was "lucky" enough to find just inside the entrance to an out house. And, speaking of outhouses, here's one of my favorite shots from a trip my wife and I took to Hawaii to celebrate our tenth anniversary in 2006 (this one from a Oahu beach outhouse, though whether any "beach" is evident in the picture, or any hints of a beach in Hawaii, I leave up to the viewer to decide):
Oh, and the ripple-triptych at the top of this blog entry was a quick series taken a few weeks ago at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, though - again - I'll admit that deducing that it was taken at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden may not be that - Ahem - obvious. Then again, with some of my shots, such as the ones in my Micro Worlds portfolio, most people are mystified even after I explain what the shots are "shots of"! Par for the course, I'd say, for a fine-art photographer ;-)