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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This week I'm looking back at my photographs from the Dakota Creek Shipyard in Anacortes.

What I saw that I liked:

Industrial places like the shipyard are a visual jumble of complexity and chaos.

What I don't like in the picture:

For the first few weeks, I tried to photograph that chaos, but all the images (like the one above) were too busy, too difficult to decipher, visually confusing.

What I learned:

For me, the trick was to start looking for the simpler images I could isolate from the chaos. The one at left was a very crucial early image for this project because it showed me the importance of leaning more to minimalism and also the importance of including the human element.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

Once I got onto this idea of the human element, I started looking for it everywhere. That revelation changed the project more than any other.