This morning when I woke, I was thinking about pictures – this is not unusual for me. I think about images a lot – and this morning I thought about what makes a good picture. I take pictures – not so many under Covid restrictions because I work mainly on the street – but how do I know it’s a good picture? Firstly, I suppose, you have to define what constitutes a “good picture”, and as we are all different, then what makes a good picture to one does not to another; yes, it’s personal, as they say. There is no simple answer.
Is a good picture one that will be appreciated by others? Is that how we measure it? Is it a good picture because it gets lots of “Likes” in Social media? If so – and I don’t believe it is – then you have to ask yourself, who are you taking pictures for? Simple, I take them for me.
Before the days where everybody had mobile phone/cameras, before social media, before the world at large had opinions on such things, what constituted a good picture was largely produced by photographer artisans, professionals using cameras priced out of the range of the ordinary folk. They produced excellent work but, if we look at some of the work they produced – and remove the ‘nostalgia filter’ put in place by the passing of time – and judge that work as if it were made today, it could be argued it was ordinary. There being many notable exceptions of course.
What was Joe Public producing back then? I remember being handed the sheaves of pictures resulting from my parents holiday trips, each with one or another of them in the shot and always grinning inanely. Back then, my rapid viewing of each, like I was dealing cards at a casino, was probably insulting to them. I saw nothing in their pictures, afterall I could see them both in reality. I didn’t need to see them standing in front of this or that monument, fountain or restaurant. Were their images just to prove they had been there? I don’t know. And, if that was the reason, then wasn’t the picture of the said monument, fountain etc not evidence enough, and if so, then why not take a better picture of what they were obscuring by standing in front of it? Why did they need to be in shot?
My parents were possibly taking pictures for others, maybe for themselves, if so then those images were simply as a “we were there” sort of reminder, and for the tourist is that not enough? And yes, there is a residual element of this in some of my pictures. Try as we might, we cannot completely expunge early experiences. They are what makes up part of our visual DNA afterall.
Back to what is a good picture; as I said it’s personal. For me, it’s about how a picture makes me feel. It’s about what I see in it. It’s about whether it’s satisfying or not. I have to look at my pictures and feel something. Something which may be invisible to others, but something that I know with my own personal photographic history, with my own appreciation of what has been produced by artists and photographers of the past, with my own sense of shape, colour or tone, or design sensibilities, that this image I am looking at fits. It just fits – as the right piece fits into a jigsaw. My jigsaw of life’s pageant that is. Note the emphasis.
Living under Covid
To repeat myself, I take pictures for me. They are expressly personal – given what I have said above, how could they be anything other than that?
It’s nice when somebody might share your view and appreciates what you have done but don’t judge yourself on that (neither negatively or positively) – if, indeed, you want to judge yourself at all.
Today, everybody is a critic, but the only one who matters is you.
Other pieces relevant to this theme.