More and more the battles of photography are seemingly fought in the technology arena, be it sensors size or density, frames per second, lens speed or sharpness, high definition-ness of the video capabilities, etc. As if the essence of a compelling image can be expressed in digits, specs or graphs. Look at the Pulitzer Prize winning photos that have been touring the country and one of the first things you’ll notice is….not the technical aspects of the images. If you actually can get past the stories being told, the sometimes brutal realities frozen forever on paper, you will see these images are not technically superb. Some are not in great focus, some are not composed according to “the rules,” some have less than correct exposure, some are grainy. What you should notice is that none of these less-than-excellent technical aspects deter the viewer from truly seeing the story being portrayed. The compelling nature of the image renders the technology irrelevant.
It’s said the best camera to own is the one you have with you. Here’s an image from 1989, a business trip down under. Not wanting to struggle with multiple lenses, exposure controls and more luggage I carried what then passed for a point-and-shoot: a Canon Shur Shot 35mm film camera with a 38mm f/2.8 lens, loaded with Kodachrome 64 slide film. It fit into its own belt holster, was auto-focus and auto-exposure, and simply felt good in my hand. This image was made just after sunrise, looking from Watson’s Bay across the harbor to Sydney. It’s a hand-held shot; I’m guessing the shutter speed was around 1/30 sec. (there’s no metadata from film!). Nothing fancy about it – just a snapshot from a foreign country. But it connects to a memory for me, a memory of a place I never thought I’d visit or experience. One of those “exotic” other-side-of-the-world places. But here it is, captured for all to see, stating I was there.
Technology enabled me to make this image but it didn’t get in the way of me creating a memory.