Photography is a funny business.
It really is.
An image one editor may see as the next Pulitzer winner, another may glance at and dismiss in a matter of seconds.
Sure, there are the basic rules of photography. In focus, colors true to life, composition, the rule of thirds… the list goes on and on.
And, once you have mastered the list, you can start breaking rules.
That is where the fun comes in.
But, at the end of the day, it remains up to the individual viewer to view, interpret, and absorb the image.
I was listening to the movie Inception the other night while working through photo files (I’ve discovered as I am busier, I more often listen to movies than actually watch them. It’s hard to sit down for two hours and not get anything productive done.) At one point, British forger Eames is talking to team lead Cobb about a possible job they will undertake.
“…But all that stuff’s at the mercy of the subject’s prejudice. You have to go to the basic,” Eames explains as they sit in a cafe in Mombasa.
The quote stopped me in my tracks. I minimized Lightroom and clicked to iTunes to watch the scene. It’s not the first time I had seen the movie, but it was the first time I had interpreted the line into my own world.
Photography is at the mercy of the subject’s prejudice. I’ve sat in editor’s offices and been reamed out for my lack of degree and for taking a different approach with my work. Once, one of those editors came back to me, apologized, and asked to work together less than a month after out initial meeting.
The rest of the time, I take what I can from the meeting – criticism is a fantastic way to learn – and move forward. It’s the only direction to go.
And now, with each click of the shutter, I take into account my own prejudice at the scene I see beyond the lens. Some photos I will be fond of simply due to the fact I know how much work went on behind the scenes, even though technically they may lack. Others bring back fond memories of times past. Other images, while perhaps strong photos, may never be pushed to the editor’s desk. Something doesn’t click with my internal mind. Others see them and, to their eye, the photo works. Sometimes for me it just doesn’t.
A photo has to tell a story.
And that, at the end of the day, is my own prejudice.