The Benedictine Monks in Atchison, Kan., held their annual bowling bonanza yesterday. I think I've become invisible now. I walk around with my camera and people don't even notice me. I can get in the way and people want even ask me to move. I can look someone in the eye with the camera, but have a hard time connecting without it. Photography digs into my skin sometimes.
In class, I've been stuck on this issue of "what makes a good photograph"?
I think there are some prerequisites for telling someone that there pictures aren't any good. We can make a checklist to state the obvious such as if the picture is in focus, exposed correctly, or that sort of thing. Then, we could look at how compelling the image is in terms of composition and content. At the same time, all of this continues to seem so subjective.
I've been looking at the work of Jay Maisel, William Eggleston, and Richard Misrach to provide some clues as to the transcendental qualities images possess and how I've found it so frustrating to explain any of this to students.
It is possible, I believe, for a photograph to evoke in us an emotional space that goes far beyond the realm of what we know as reality. I actually think this is the magic of photography -- a transcendency from the physical to the imaginative. Symbols help provide clues to how we respond to images, but words always lock down the meaning.