Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Creative Moment

There are fetishists who insist that cropping is bad, or that spray-and-pray photography is inherently wrong, or that photoshop is evil, and so on. On the one hand, there is a legitimate point of view here in that this may be the game they are playing. If you choose to set yourself a rule of no cropping, that's fine. There are, really, unmanageably many choices that must be made to make a photograph, so we all choose to limit them up front (see also my remarks on Style).

Often, though, there seems to be some undercurrent that has something to do with the creative moment. A photographer is one who creates the image with a shutter button press, the creative moment is ideally compressed into that single instant. Click. The thinking seems to be that if you're creating later in the process, the work is not "true" photography, somehow. Oddly, you can create beforehand, setting up the shot, but afterwards you mayn't.

This stuff is basically silly. Ultimately, all photographs are made by a series of artistic choices spread over time. There is no instant of creation at which moment the photographer gets it right, although there might be an identifiable "primary" moment at which some important choice was made. No photographer has a 100% keeper rate, there is always the creative act of simply throwing away lesser images. This occurs, perforce, later than the moment of shutter release. In reality, we are all "spray and pray" photographers, it's only the manner and degree of spraying that varies.

What does it matter if the "major" creative moment occurs when looking at a contact sheet, rather than when pressing the shutter button? Is there really a difference in kind, here? Arguably the spray-and-pray worker edits the Universe down to a manageable set of images, a smaller but still substantial world, with the camera. Then, by perusing the contact sheets or the digital archive, the primary creative moment occurs, capturing a final frame from this smaller and more manageable world. Perhaps, in this sense, there is a difference in Kind, but again, what does it matter?

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