To a Blind Horse

☞ Your Camera Roll Contains a Masterpiece

Your Camera Roll Contains a Masterpiece:

If you take enough photographs, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll eventually get an extraordinary one, for reasons you might not understand. Cartier-Bresson was a hunter in his youth, and photographers have often described his brand of street photography as a kind of “hunting,” but it might be more accurate to say that it was like fishing—a sport in which you can do a lot to optimize your chances but still can’t know for sure what you’re going to get. Chance is pretty much always in play. Sometimes everything comes together before the lens, and the visual world sorts itself within the frame, and you get a little gift. None of us really knows for sure if or when the magic’s going to happen.

“Redaction is what transforms a quantity of images from a heap to a whole,” the photography critic A. D. Coleman once wrote, referring to the process of culling. The cloud is big, so we don’t redact. We live with our heaps.

Redacting takes time. You can’t edit pictures by thinking; you have to do it by looking. The more pictures you have, the more you have to look. Everyone’s different, but here’s how I worked back in the film days. Every other night, I’d develop three rolls of Kodak Tri-X film, standing at my kitchen sink. With a lighted magnifier, I would carefully examine the three contact sheets, each containing thirty-five frames. Looking at the miniature pictures, I knew the cost of each one to the cent. From them, I’d select maybe fifteen pictures, making eight-by-ten work prints of them. At first, I’d think they all showed the same promise. But then I’d pin them up on the wall for five days and look at them. Day by day, something mysterious would happen. Perhaps three of the pictures would pull me in further, with force, until I loved looking at them. The other twelve I’d never need to see again.

Written May 19, 2022.

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