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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Original digital capture

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What I saw that I liked:

Photographing the abandoned place [in this case, a farm in North Dakota], we are often restricted to features outside — the building, doors and windows, the yard.

What I don't like in the picture:

But, such images of the outside don't tell us much about the people. Whenever I can, I prefer the "psychological portrait" that often requires we get inside the building, hopefully to find remnants of the people who lived there.

What I learned:

The image at left was found inside the building shown above. The photograph above may be a better, more succinct photographic composition, but the image at left is far more captivating. The image above is a fact; the image at left leaves us asking a dozen questions. Compositionally, it's sloppy, but the content is so much more powerful because we are engaged.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

Still thinking about what I can do with all the elements that are so full of potential. Not the least of which is what happened to the notes that are missing from all the remaining thumbtacks? There is a story to be told.