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:

In frozen Baotou, China in late January. An Easter bunny?

What I don't like in the picture:

The one above is a snapshot of my friend David Grant Best taking a picture of the bunny. It's clearly a snapshot that was never intended to be anything more than that.

What I learned:

But snapshot moments may present more opportunities for artmaking that we might guess. The image at left removes the skiline and David, but has a circus quality that I could easily see making its way into a project of some kind. Notice that this camera angle also eliminates any sense of temperature or that it was in China. I could easily use this in a project of county fairs or carnivals that are from a summer scene. When it comes to artmaking, it's less important what it is, than it is what you make it.