Tony Fouhse in his post today talked about ways of shooting and editing, and how one influences the other. He concluded that he prefers to shoot a lot and give himself permission to make mistakes, bark up the wrong tree, and edit them out, than to restrict his shooting and show every single frame. I definitely have the same approach.
However, I shoot a bit compulsively; I take the same picture over and over again, almost as a kind of insurance. I do try to move around and explore the subject from many angles, but I suspect it’s all a bit excessive. I’d like to blame digital, but I remember shooting an entire roll of 36 frames in South Africa of exactly the same scene, and not one of them was remotely usable.
For example, I’m working on a series of photographs about John. I think I mentioned him here before? Anyways, back in July he invited me to photograph him while he got a tattoo. I was delighted. And I knew that because this was part of a larger series, I’d probably only end up with one shot in the final edit. So I went and I shot. I shot close to 500 frames, and in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell I was thinking. The thing is, I knew only one frame would end up making it, but I didn’t know which one that would be. Maybe it will come with more experience, but the Decisive Moment doesn’t present itself to me when I’m shooting with trumpets and stars. I’ve had way too many experiences where six months or a year down the road, I find a photo I’d initially labelled as a reject but now discover it’s actually really good. I’d just been too close to the experience of shooting and the expectations I developed in the moment. I’ve managed to narrow it down to 8 frames.
I’m not sure how I’ll proceed from here, but since I still have more shooting to do with John, I’ll let the project unfold before I get my knickers in too much of a twist.
Image Makers, Image Takers revealed some interesting takes on this issue.
William Eggleston had this to say: “It happens so fast. I compose very quickly and without thinking, but consciously. I take a picture instantly and never more than one. Sometimes I worry about the picture being out of focus, but I take that chance. A long time ago, I would have taken several shots of the same thing, but I realized that I could never decide which one was the best. I thought I was wasting a lot of time looking at these damn near identical pictures. I wanted to discipline myself to take only one picture of something, and if it didn’t work out, that’s just too bad.”
Whereas Tina Barney said, “My theory is, the more pictures you take, the better you get. It’s like a sport. I never wait to get a particular shot because wonderful accidents can happen when you shoot a lot.”
Also, I’ve recently seen some collections with different frames from the same scene or almost the same moment, that I find quite thought-provoking and compelling. The first was in David Goldblatt, Hasselblad Award 2006, which I got from the university library. The book contains several fold-out pages that show three different views of the same scene, and they don’t feel self-indulgent like someone just couldn’t decide at all. Each image adds to the other in a meaningful and important way. Laura Pannack’s series, “grams,”is another example of several shots from the same day and scene.
Nevertheless, I’d like to find a way to be a little more deliberate and sparing in my shooting without closing myself off to the unexpected.