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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Pictures come from pictures:

Here's another example of Carl Chiarenza's idea that pictures come from pictures.

I photographed the above image in 1989. It was included in my book, Made of Steel. This image was definitely on my mind when I photographed the image at left in 2009 — twenty years later. I was always wishing that the one above had been bilaterally symmetric. That black triangle in the lower left corner always bugged me. With that in mind, I positioned the camera for the one at left with finicky precision.

These two are different enough that I don't think of them as duplicates. They are, however, cousins. Pictures come from pictures. And with every picture we make — even the successful ones, one that get published — there are lessons that can help us sometime down the road.