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June 13, 2011

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As you probably know, there were almost two identical Oswald getting shot by Ruby shots taken by trained professional news photographers. Both knew what door Oswald and the Marshals were going to exit from and which exit they were going to take. They probably used their press passes to get the optimum position. Then they set their speed and aperture and flash timing as they knew exactly what they were dealing with. Then BOOM, enter Jack Ruby with the revolver. Both photographs were perfect, except one was more perfect than the other. Less than a second apart but dramatically different.

My favorite shots are when I'm carrying a camera, kind of ready to shoot, and I see it coming. Maybe no time for adjusting anything except maybe the focus if if I'm not using an AF lens, just capture the moment spontaneously and record the split-second of time and space that never happened before and never will occur again. Birds in flight, two lovers stealing a moment, a woman's reaction to "Oye Mamacita" one of my personal favorites.

It’s interesting that you have brought up the issue of time and photography. It certainly can be an elusive one. Notice that when viewing an image of the past you have a snapshot of the conditions of a location in time. At the exact moment of “now” when you clicked the shutter, there was only you and your camera interacting with the subject. Time, although it may have been critical up to that point, drops out of the equation. In the future, before you take the shot, you may use time as a reference but it’s more about the relationship of you the subject, than time. Time, in the future, only exists as potential but not as a reality as everything is experienced in the now.

Where I am I going with all this? Art photography or photography that has become art, is all about relationships. The magic comes when we are able to see (and/or imagine) special relationships and be able to communicate them through the media of an image. Viewing the image provides the viewer the opportunity to experience the relationships that were arraigned (or noticed) by you, in a particular way. Notice again, the viewing of the image is always now. I agree with your statement, “the art of creating impressions of time.”

Light has always been the medium of seeing and applies to both what exists in the now and our imaging of both the past and future. It is in the interplay of light and darkness (lack of light) that interesting creations are made. Photography becomes art when an interesting or popular statement is made. The real genius of a photographer lies in their ability to be aware of what those special feelings are, that art photography triggers, and be able to discern moments or conditions (that right, the relationships) that contain that essence. For me, this is listening to what’s going on inside of me as well as the world around me, and waiting for that, Aha, moment to arrive, rather than looking to hard with my eyes. When all the conditions are right, the Aha moment comes and the shutter clicks and the image is memorable and timeless.

A photographer I have been looking at lately who is often concerned with the evidence of events outside the frame is Frank Gohlke. He first became famous as an exhibitor in the New Topographics show. He later photographed the aftermath of a tornado in his hometown of Wichita Falls, Texas, and the aftermath of the Mount Saint Helens eruption. In both cases, he returned a year or more after the disasters to rephotograph the places he had photographed immediately after the disasters. The later photos show how the respective environments -- both human and natural -- were recovering. One of my favorite photos by him, which I have been unable to find online, shows a small river flowing placidly past some trees. When you look more carefully you see there's something odd about the trees. There is a great deal of debris stuck in their branches about ten feet above the ground. It's a picture of the ghost of a flood.

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