jensen quote
– excerpted from Letting Go of the Camera, by Brooks Jensen

I struggle with images. Picking up the camera forty years after putting it down is no easy task although the production of the photograph itself has become easier. But does that make for a better image? I’ve played with filters, software, hardware, different substrates, changing ink tanks, light sources, bouncing from black-and-white to color. Nothing seemed to match what I thought I had taken a photo of. So I went back to my hardware and software and tried again and again.

But what I was printing out wasn’t what I was really “seeing”. I was taking a photo of an object and reproducing it. But what I was doing was just copying it from real life and putting it into a digital format. Maybe I’ll alter it with some fancy digital footwork or some HDR trickery – but it just wasn’t working. It just wasn’t what I was seeing.

I went back to my words. And what I found that when I was into a piece of prose I really enjoyed, I lost touch with the keyboard, the screen, the room I was sitting in. And I thought maybe there was a source that any creative work comes from that has nothing to do with the raw materials and tools anyone uses. That the thing that I could “see” was coming from somewhere else.

Then I read this quote in the above book:  “Do not speak unless spoken through.”

I’m beginning to understand that the act of any form of creation has to be taken out of the self. That it does come from somewhere else and not something that can be forced. Yes, we can sit down and write five hundred words a day, or take one hundred photographs of the same object, or use broader and bolder strokes with our colors. But the true essence of something is revealed only when we allow its essence to come through us to see it.

Or, as Marshall McLuhan didn’t say – the medium doesn’t matter.

A photographer I met had once diminished one of her most emotionally effective prints by saying that the image was just too easy – it was taken with a cheap camera, it was quickly printed, it wasn’t processed, etc. But what she had misunderstood – or did understand but was afraid to say it – was that the photograph was honest and true and represented the essence of who she was and what she was capturing the image of.

It’s not just the approach – it’s letting it approach you.

And it certainly isn’t something that comes easily.

It’s Friday. Do the work.