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:

A strong Chinese aesthetic.

What I don't like in the picture:

A dumb photograph. You might be tempted to delete and image like this that just doesn't have any life or appeal, but don't. You never know when you might find the perfect place for it . . .

What I learned:

. . . in this case, as a ghosted backdrop to an ancient Chinese poem. I used the image at left in my project titled, Searching for Su Tung P'o. I could have just placed the text on a white background, but I like the textured paper look I was able to create from the boring photograph above. I use this technique a lot. I even look for these kinds of images that I anticipate converting to a background.