Just passing, and just a passing thought

imageNorthfield, Connecticut © Steven Willard

I am not going to get tangled up in a lengthy comment about the relative merits of photography versus drawing or painting; it is too fraught with mines and pitfalls, but this image is a good example for me of one of the reasons I practice photography.

Susan, Marc and I had been photographing around the Laurel Ridge* daffodil field across the road when I felt I was done and wandered back to the car. That’s where I spotted this section of split rail fence. I couldn’t tell at first if it was wire or vine that was twisted about the post, but as I got closer I was attracted to the textures and contrasts so I did what most photographers would do, I made some exposures. Simple right? We see something that attracts us, large or small, so we photograph it. How would I do that with pencil or brush? Even a cursory sketch would have had me standing there for fifteen minutes at least while my friends waited with growing impatience, and in the end my efforts would have resulted in a poor likeness: my skills just aren’t up to the task.

But why do we bother making images of the seemingly mundane in the first place? Why are we moved to record the unimportant? Why not save our efforts solely for the dramatic, the grandiose, the significant? There seems to be an itch that some have that can only be scratched by recording the “little” things of life. Maybe it’s because the greater balance of our lives is made up of those small mundane things and moments. For most of us they make up most of what we see and do, and it’s only logical that that would constitute a large portion of what we want to mark. Or, perhaps, it is the same urge that our distant ancestors felt when they painted on cave walls. It’s a fact that some of those paintings are of dramatic hunting scenes, but some are nothing more than the outline of the artist’s hand. Why would they do that? I think it was just to say, “Hey, I was here, and here’s proof”.

There are some who decry the fact that so many photographs are being made now that the digital process is so easy and cheap. They complain that it dilutes the pool and makes it harder to single out the really fine, important images; that it lowers the common demominator. I don’t buy it. I believe we all have the need to mark the fact that we were here. Kilroy wasn’t the first to say he was here, nor was he the last. We used to mark places with our graffiti, “I was here”, now we take a picture and post it online and say “I was there”.  The digital camera has at last given virtually anyone the power to record faithfully** the little things we see that help mark our journey; and the internet lets us share the experience.

Pentax K5IIs, 70mm Pentax lens, image processed in Photoshop CS4 and converted to black and white in Nik Silver Efex Pro2.

*See the previous post.

**Faithfully is a matter of opinion or taste, but not everyone can render an accurate likeness with pencil or brush.


2 comments on “Just passing, and just a passing thought

  1. Joe says:

    Excellent post and photo Steven 🙂 and that’s coming from someone who takes photos of mundane objects often. It totally understand and can relate to this post.


  2. I feel a kindred spirit at work here. Not all images have to have a meaning. It can be more about the practice of photography and the seeing, the noticing, as much as anything else.
    As always, thanks for dropping by. Now go out and photograph, it’s a beautiful day!


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