Let's take a break from my thoughts on image quality which is actually a trojan horse of sorts that instead really talks more to quality of image, at least in terms that can be articulated. More of the what's important and what's not from my point of view. Today I wanted to summarize a conversation I had on twitter a few days ago sparked in jest but interesting none the less. An on-line eBuddy tweeted something along the lines of; "Why is it that people think any old blurry photo is good as long as there are boobs in it?". A paraphrase to get the idea across. Of course me being me I had to respond with some sarcasm and at the same time be contrary. Have you figured out I will generally take the opposite point of view in any given situation?
One of the interesting things about the endeavor of photography is that it's a million different things to a million different people. There's countless aspects to the art and craft. It's challenging in many many ways. Even if all of the technical challenges just vanish making pictures with what amounts to a simple box that captures a slice of time is incredibly and endlessly variable. Differing aspects no matter what the subject matter will interest and intrigue different people. Those aspects may overlap or may be completely divergent.
Having been at this for a few decades I can tell you that any particular aspect, treatment, technique, style, etc that has interested me changes over time. What I'm all over and all about changes and evolves. There's a good chance if you spend enough time on any particular aspect of this art and craft your thing whatever that may be will change to. When you bring subject matter into the equation there's a good chance that will evolve as well. Of course you may revisit things that interested you in the past, they come up, they go away. A few might even be constant throughout your entire photographic life. I know a few of those for my personal photographic life. Things that have remained constant now that I look back. Impossible to forecast but not so hard to identify after the fact.
So what does this have to do with blurry pictures with boobs? It just so happens that I had shot one of those about three days before this conversation came up. As you might have guessed I just had to share that. I did. That of course led to the interesting part of the conversation. A discussion of experimentation, intent, and traveling down different roads to see where they might go. Here's my blurry picture with boobs which we'll use as fodder for conversation.
Of course this is no masterpiece but there are aspects of it that I like a lot. In case you missed it, I shoot my Fuji X100S out of focus on purpose. Not all the time, not even a lot but sometimes. This came about partially by intent and exploration of how my original X100's little 23mm lens looked in out of focus areas and partially by accident when I was shooting a year ago in adverse conditions and the damn thing mis-focused and made my subject all blurry. Those accidents gave me an idea. Here and there I would rack the lens out of focus and shoot my subject that way on purpose. I have a little collection of these and might actually do a series of very controlled shots where all of them are rendered this way. They will be coherent and I hope they will have something to say rather than just some sort of artifice. We'll see. Can't tell until I do them. Armchair quarterbacking will get me nowhere either way – good or bad.
The image above came out of sheer boredom. I had shot what could be considered credible, in-focus, documentary images all day that day for BTS promo kind of stuff for our new Atomic Canary:Baltimore space. This happened to be a mini-workshop on abstract figure photography being hosted by one of my coconspirators. That's sort of her thing at this point. It occurred to me that the whole scene was a bit surreal. I started treating it that way as I think I had the pure docco stuff I needed for this.
I abstracted the participants and everything else and started to shoot vignettes I found interesting in one way or another. I shot sharp ones too just wanted to see if this would work with my current OOF/distance/Aperture thing on the X100 the way I thought it would. It sorta did and it gives me new ideas for use somewhere else. Before I even realized it I started to look at the scene very differently than just a matter of documentary record. I started positioning my viewpoint for the surreal which lead to a bunch of different images I found interesting. Final projects? Of course not but elements that I will definitely use for a few things I have in mind.
As my point of view and mission changed the things that caught my attention changed as well. I made completely different images than I was making a mere ten minutes before. Same scene, same people, same subject, same horrid low light, same camera, same lens. By the time I was done I had a few images that I thought were very cool. Not to use as a project, not anything finished, but some places I'm definitely going to go. In reviewing these a few days later I also realized something else; Every road you've ever been down tends to influence you and shape your treatment in ways that range from blatant to subtle. Here's another shot I made when I was in the surreal zone that evening.
In my case roads I've been down decades ago are quite obvious but far more subtle. More of an amalgam of other photographer's work that I spent a considerable effort to reproduce and then ran away from as far as I could as I was just aping them in all my pictures. The interesting thing is now I can see the influence but I don't need to run away. It's become part of my vocabulary.
Did you notice the mirror photographs at the top of the post. Where do you think they came from. I shot these on the fly without really even a consideration of my Mirror-mirror project. They probably won't end up being used but what's on your mind, what roads you've been down, and little bits you are hyper-aware of at any given moment due to your current interests will find their way into your photographs. The message here is go shoot blurry pictures of boobs if that's nagging at you. Go shoot whatever's on your mind, do it in a way that floats your photographic boat at the moment. There's a good chance whatever is interesting you will evolve and change. Possibly completely but if you pursue your interests with intent and any degree of serious thought there are bits that will add to your own visual vocabulary. Tiny things you happened to like, or didn't like. Blurry boobs might not be the end of the road and probably shouldn't be. They might lead somewhere though.
I see far too many photographers get stuck. Maybe it's fear, maybe it's just laziness. I get stuck and when I do it's painful. Maybe the deluge of opinions we're all subject to in this new improved era are too much influence – maybe whatever image prompted the "blurry boob" comment of my eBuddy will be the end of that because it's the only voice that person heard about it. I hope not, I see far too much homogenization of photography shared that appears to be what will generate the most positive, thoughtless, positive internet response from the most people.
Food for thought.