I was stumbling around the internet this afternoon – distracting myself from the suddenly-realized fact that my old R2400 printer drivers don’t work on my new MacPro. The frustration of the printer thing is another tale for another time. It sorted itself out after I downloaded a different driver from the Epson Malaysia site – it’s the only one that worked. But now all my paper sizes are in metric and it’s very confusing and, well I needed a break.
I stumbled upon a web-blog – Thomas Broening’s, I believe – that raised an excellent question. Someone had made the observation that at some point in Broening’s career his images were so over-produced that they had had the life sucked out of them, that someone had asked the question "but is the image alive?"
Is it alive?
Good question. It could probably be expressed a million ways – but "is it alive" resonates with me. The internet is full of shooters who are really good at their technique – but their images aren’t alive. There’s alot of clever, artsy stuff out there – really well conceived – but is it alive? Does it catch a moment, an emotion, a question that resists resolving, a moment where the thing is neither up nor down but hanging in the dynamic nano-second between being tossed in the air and being pulled back by gravity? Is it ALIVE?
I’m finding it harder and harder to critique images these days, i think mostly because i feel like I keep saying the same thing – the image isn’t ABOUT anything, it doesn’t conjure up emotion in me. Forget what you’ve heard – the best images don’t "freeze a moment in time" as though the moment had been shot, killed, and mounted. The best images capture that moment and allow it to live on every time it is experienced by a viewer. The spark in the eye, the dynamic composition, the incompleted gesture, the leading lines, the interplay of light and dark, the hint of intention…all these and more can breathe life into an image when used right.
I’m not going anywhere with this, it’s not a tutorial – more like the mutterings of a drunken, senile teacher who long ago had his license revoked – but it’s my blog. I claim artistic license.
Next time you’re tempted to ask "is it any good?", start with "is it alive?" instead.