Brooks Jensen Arts

Every Picture Is a Compromise

Lessons from the Also-rans

Most photography websites show the photographer's very best work. Wonderful. But that's not the full story of a creative life. If we want to learn, we'd better pay attention to the images that aren't "greatest hits" and see what lessons they have to offer. Every picture is a compromise — the sum of its parts, optical, technical, visual, emotional, and even cosmic – well, maybe not cosmic, but sometimes spiritual. Success on all fronts is rare. It's ok to learn from those that are not our best.

This is a series about my also-rans, some of which I've been able to improve at bit (i.e., "best effort"), none of which I would consider my best. With each there are lessons worth sharing, so I will.

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What I saw that I liked:

Chaos as a source for making abstracts appeals to me greatly.

What I don't like in the picture:

But all chaos with nothing to draw our attention is just a mess. That's the problem with the one above — nothing really stands out as the thing we are supposed to see. It's a fine background, but that's about it.

What I learned:

These two (including the one at left) are from the very first session photographing the walls at Fort Casey and Fort Worden. The one at left taught me a great deal. It may not be a great abstract (no doubt), but it did demonstrate convincingly that an abstact needs to have a focal point of attention. There has to be something to see against the chaos of the background. After that first session, I spent a lot of time looking at Jackson Pollack and Robert Motherwell's abstracts. It was really helpful to catch hold of this idea about the necessity for something to look at admist the disorder.