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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A bit of a philosophical question:

This image idea first occured to me in 2003 while photographing in North Dakota. The one above was the first of many.

Then, in 2009, I was photographing in the historic Ansorge Hotel in Curlew, Washington when I found the piano at left. Do I not photograph it because I'd already done the one above? Is it lazy? Am I merely copying myself? The newer one was made with a much better camera and lens. Does that justify repeating the image idea? The most recent one is from 2019.

Right or wrong, my answer has always been that if I'm moved to make a picture, just do it. Sort out the philosophy later. I now have a dozen or so variations of this composition. When does it become a waste of time?

I wish I had an answer. In the meantime, what I do have is a lot of piano shots in my Lightroom catalog. Someday I'll need to do something with them. I just don't yet know what that is. And if I have an opportunity to photograph another one tomorrow, I will.