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Thursday, May 7, 2020


There's a story we hear in photographic circles from time to time. Someone, I think it's usually Koudelka, is visiting someone else, or hanging around with someone else. Early in the morning, Koudelka is found outside, snapping wildly. He explains that he has to shoot 3000 frames before sunup every day to keep his eye in, or something. Sometimes he's just dry shooting, without film, sometimes he has to shoot film. I think sometimes he's actually Kert├ęsz.

These stories are always trotted out as kind of breathless examples of the kind of dedication shown by so-and-so the great photographer. The implication is that greatness requires this sort of weird behavior.

My reaction to these stories is not oh wow, I need to spend a lot more time wandering around shooting random pictures but rather holy shit, what a kook.

Far be it from me to question a fellow's process. Maybe it truly was necessary for Koudelka to get up at 4am and run the shutter of his camera 100 times every day, I dunno. What I do know is that this isn't a useful exercise for me, and there's no particular evidence that it's a useful exercise for you.

There have been some pretty fair large format photographers over the years, and I am gonna go out on a limb and suggest that most of them weren't up with the dawn cranking out a couple dozen sheets of film just to keep their eye in. On the flip side, by the end of his life Garry Winogrand had gone completely 'round the bend and apparently couldn't stop mashing the shutter button. I've seen the contact sheets and there's nothing there.

By all means, do whatever works for you, whatever gives you joy. But don't assign yourself tedious chores because you think you have to, and don't feel guilty or inadequate because you don't assign yourself tedious chores.

As Doc says to Lightning McQueen: Find a groove that works for you


  1. Well, if it takes 10000 hours to really master some art (there are statistics, right?) and it takes about 30 seconds to point and shoot, that works out to 1.2 million captures before you can claim to be any good at all. This also explains why there were no significant photographers before digital. Not only did they not have the benefit of photo-forums and a well-developed theoretically and politically advanced critical culture (nonexistent before the Internet) but film takes too long to load!

  2. Hmmm, interesting!! I'm reminded of the story about the composer Carl Ruggles who was found by a friend bashing out the same chord over and over again....."giving it the test of time!"
    But as you say, whatever works for the individual.
    I would offer this thought tho' - you don't have to have a camera on you to think about the photos you might take. Visualising the framing / photo helps to train our eyes...that kinda works for me! Who knows, it might make even me a kook??!!