Brooks Jensen Arts

Every Picture Is a Compromise

Lessons from the Also-rans

Most photography websites show the photographer's very best work. Wonderful. But that's not the full story of a creative life. If we want to learn, we'd better pay attention to the images that aren't "greatest hits" and see what lessons they have to offer. Every picture is a compromise — the sum of its parts, optical, technical, visual, emotional, and even cosmic – well, maybe not cosmic, but sometimes spiritual. Success on all fronts is rare. It's ok to learn from those that are not our best.

This is a series about my also-rans, some of which I've been able to improve at bit (i.e., "best effort"), none of which I would consider my best. With each there are lessons worth sharing, so I will.

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Original analog capture (from 1986)

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What I saw that I liked:

Eat, Crush, white tree branches. In 1986, this was a perfect scene for my view camera and b/w film. This image is included in my book Made of Steel.

What I don't like today:

Time is cruel. Everything decays. I happened to drive past this old cafe and gas station in my recent sojourns in eastern Oregon and the old building is succuming to the elements, as everything does.

What I learned:

If you are even just a little bit tempted, make the picture. You may never have another chance. And you can't go back. Well, you can, physically — but time cannot be reversed.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

That said, I should have thrown off my nostalgia for what was and concentrated on what is. I'm sure there were images to make here, if I had been willing to see it for what it now is.