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Random thoughts on photography (II)

Brooks Jensen once mentioned in one of his podcasts that life is a process of letting go, and I could not agree more. We let go of some things because we feel that whatever role they were supposed to play has been fulfilled, or because our perception moves onto a higher level and we leave them behind as clothes we can no longer wear or all of sudden find tasteless, or simply because we realise that holding onto them or acquiring more of the same simply is not going to resolve or significantly change anything. There also are things that we have to let go of once we reach a certain point. They, however, are fewer, take a discriminating eye to be recognised as such and, unlike the former variety, require a persistent determination to part with.

From a certain perspective the course of a photographer's artistic evolvement is a process of letting go, too. As one gradually becomes a better photographer and his artistic perception matures, he lets go of the photographic subjects that are not immediately consistent with his essence as well as of the compositions and lighting that are likely to only bring about triviality; this often coincides with moving to bigger and bigger formats—from 35mm to 645 to 6X7 and on to 4X5; this also results in an ever–decreasing number of total shots taken and an ever–increasing number of keepers. He steadily learns to identify less successful photographs and disposes of them increasingly easier. And he discovers that, with time, he needs fewer and fewer pieces of gear, suffers from the E.A.S. (equipment acquisition syndrome) less and less frequently and, quite oddly, even starts bordering on becoming cool.

Are there any things that photographers have to let go of? I would venture to say older technologies, as for any new technology there comes a time when it matures to the point whereby the benefits that it offers are worth the trouble of leaving the comfort zone of the familiar and well practiced. This, however, is not entirely absolute as the medium associated with a given technology always has its unique signature that cannot be completely reproduced by the technology that replaces it. Unlike things unrelated to photography that we have to let go of in the course of our lives, sticking to the look of a particular medium is not detrimental and might even be trendy.

I find it curious how certain things—and people—come and stay in our lives for relatively short periods of time. They fascinate us, teach us new things, open new doors and ways of perception. They, however, burn out fairly quickly and, once devoured, are no longer a part of the intense attention and inevitably become a thing of the past. They are like stepping–stones—but stepping–stones to what? Uncovered yet not–too–deep parts of ourselves? Or parts of ourselves that are not essential in the grand scheme of things? Or are they simply minute fascinations?

Then there are things—and people—that stay much longer or, in terms of the limited span of our lives, even infinitely, suggesting a connection that is much more fundamental to our beings. Upon first encounter they usually give a strong impression of importance, even though at a subconscious level, and take a much longer time to fully understand and appreciate. By the time we completely grasp their depth and importance they have already witnessed and accompanied a considerable stretch of our evolvement and thus become an indispensable part of the process, of the memory of the process, and of the resulting self.

And of course, there are things—and, again, people—that just do not touch us.

What does this all have to do with photography? It seems to me that photographs that we take or see tend to fall into these categories, too.