Now this can be a dilemma, for some or many out there. It is, to a certain extent, to me as well. Not easy to fathom this conundrum, for a conundrum it is, at least in my humble, amateurish opinion.
This photograph here, zum bei spiel, as a German would say. I have taken this while on holiday late 2022, with a Minox 8×11 camera, film Fomapan 100, scanned frame. At the time of seeing this image through the camera viewfinder, I have already thinking on the following, in a rapid volley of questions, to myself:
is this worth taking? what do I want to show? why is this important to me? why should this be important to others? what level of criticism would this photo attract and why? what developer should I use? why this developer and not the other one(s)? will the grain be too visible? is the grain to be part on why people will like it? is the grain to be the part people will hate seeing? will I regret wasting a frame ? will I regret not taking the photograph?
Got home, and I pondered and wondered on what is the best developer, time, trying to remember the light and setting for this shot, so I can adjust my process accordingly. I developed it, and scanned the damn negative. I jumped to this frame, literally obsessed with it. Of course this photo didn’t even register as a good photograph, in the sense I usually perceive a good photograph (expressivity, message, tonality/shadows/highlights, etc).
To my deep disappointment, the photograph was rubbish, and it felt like a brick just shattered my self esteem mirror. Felt like my efforts were completely useless. With a sinking heart, I published it nonetheless. Once published, it didn’t attract any criticism but then again nobody gave any thumbs up. It just was. And I just let it be, but I remembered everyday about this photograph and the questions that went with it.
Several weeks after this photographs was published, my daughter (who was with me in that holiday) asked me to see the photographs I took with that occasion. This I did, and she immediately was drawn to this pointy frame. Daddy, I remember this !! I distinctly recall you asking me not to climb up there, for you want to take a clear picture of the pointy thingies !! This is something I really like, it remembers my Lego stuff !! Oh, what beautiful place and time, can we visit again , pleeease, pleeease?
And later than night, while trying to glue back the shards of that shattered self-esteem mirror, I realized that the capture of one moment in one life’s time conveys the real value to a photograph. Not the Pulitzer award-world-changing photograph, not a picture that brings tears to beholders in some exhibition, none of these matters. Well, I mean they do, but this is not the point here and now.
The point is that a photograph you made has to convey that message that you’ll understand and cherish, it has to transcend time so your loved ones to see the life as you have seen it, to feel what you felt, long after you are not anymore, all of these which you loved so much that you felt the need to freeze on your film.
And that is what I believe. Of course I am still jogging at a snail speed after that ever-elusive great photograph, one which make people say “now, this is the best one I have ever seen, congrats!”, but somehow this doesn’t feel paramount, not anymore. That perfect photograph is that which I am taking every time I am snapping away at things and making images that probably aren’t considered to be good. Guess what, every and each one of those frames are moments of my life. And my life, together with the people I love, is what matters most.