Just a Pretty Picture

Ok let’s set this shot up. We’ll get some really good light happening with our strobes. You’ve got a few changes of clothes in the dressing room. I’ll use my best 85mm lens. The pose…hmmm….let’s try something really provocative…something unusual. And then we’ll nail the expression to absolute seduction. Oh and let’s not forget that when the shoot’s over, you can do a selfie with those adolescent pouty lips…the Angelina Jolie look….you know the goldfish or whatever you call it.


I have to ask…just what is the true value of an image like that?

At some stage nearly all photographers go through that thing where they are looking for shock value perhaps. The only problem is that it’s all fake.

I’ve been studying the history of photography a great deal lately, and I just can’t help but be intrigued by some of the great photographs of Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank and others like them. Then I start sifting through some of the most gut-wrenching photos of the last decade. I shift gears and look at a few really good shots from today’s street photographers. Sure, there’s a lot of garbage out there, but many have captured something too. But just what is it? It’s almost intangible…very hard to put a finger on it.

I read a post from one of my favorite writer/photographers where he said that the most meaningful photographs are not photos of things, but photographs about things. Wow. I felt like I had been baptized…

A teacher of mine said that life is not perfect, and some of the best photographs are those that include imperfections. I’m not talking necessarily about technical imperfections. I’m talking about people imperfections. And to quote Leonard Cohen, “Ring the bell…ring the bell that still can ring. There are cracks…there are cracks in everything. That’s what let’s the light in.”

But back to street photography. Could it be that these photographs draw us in because they are candid? They are unrehearsed. They are real. The characters in them have flaws. They make us wonder things like “Where is he going? What is he thinking? What just happened to him?”

Another post I came across stated that this persons favorite and most valuable photograph was one that he had taken of his mother walking side by side with his daughter down a sidewalk. It was taken with an iPhone without them even knowing it – unrehearsed…no set up…totally candid…real life.

And then there’s the in-betweens. Those images captured of people in contemplation…caught in a space somewhere. We look at the picture and we keep looking as if being drawn into the same spell…”What have I done with my life? What does it all mean? What’s going to happen next?”
And sometimes, incredible images could only have been taken by being at the right place at the right time.

But at the end of the day…I think it’s the humanity that intrigues us. Because we all share the same things in common. We’re all human beings. We all have a story. We all try to be happy. We all suffer to varying degrees, and we’re all going to die at some point.

That set up studio shot with the pouty lips……….well, that’s just a pretty picture.

Happy Shooting,


Things Aren't Always Black and White


3 thoughts on “Just a Pretty Picture

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