first sunday in july

A lot of the time, moving through the world, I just think, like, oh, that’s interesting, take a single frame, and move on. It’s one of my worst/best habits, because really I end up with like, pictures of fences and random signs and things that aren’t part of any story. Also, a single frame is almost never the photo. Or at least the first one isn’t.

I may have talked about this before, but there’s this thing called ‘working the subject’ where you take one picture, move around, take several more, different compositions, points of focus, and really nail down what attracted you to take the picture in the first place. If you think of photography as asking questions, this is the first one: why did I want to take a picture of that?

But/and, I also find it natural and normal to work this way; take a moment, compose a single photo, get it, and move on. I don’t think either way of working is less valid, but I do know the overall quality of my work goes up when I work a subject a little. That’s the way I see it, anyway. There’s a braggadocio school that says you should only need one shot, but we can dispense with the macho bullshit, just between you and me, right? Like, maybe someone is good enough to get it in one. Or maybe they stopped at one and just have no idea where a little exploration would have taken them.

Really, for me, it’s a bad habit I learned early on, when I only had one roll of film at a time, or one a week to shoot. Film was expensive, processing was also expensive, at least until I discovered the magic of the 11-reel developing can in college. That and bulk rolling black and white film changed everything. Not worrying about running out was incredibly freeing. But sometimes I still fall back into that scarcity mindset.

It’s not film or even hard drive space that’s scarce these days, but my time. Do I have time to pause and take 20 photos of an unpainted picket fence? Probably; at 4.5 frames a second (max speed for the Leica), that’s less than 5 seconds. Really working, though, it’s closer to two minutes. It might not be 20 photos, but 10 wouldn’t be out of the question. When I intellectualize it, think about it and put it into words, it doesn’t sound like much at all.

Of course, I don’t work with words when I make pictures, and there’s the rub. I’m just feeling my way through all this. The scarcity mindset is a trauma response of sorts; doesn’t just go away. I’m not a psych, so I don’t know what to do with that, other than keep shooting and try to remember that there’s plenty of time and space for what I need to do.

Posted by Matt on 2023-11-27T10:04:21Z GMT