When it comes to viewing the world, real photography will always stand out

To call me visually oriented would be an understatement.

For most of my life, I’ve viewed the world through imaginary frames and lenses.

I had four years of art training in high school and when recently reviewing many of those pieces was impressed by their high quality. I seriously considered continuing on into college and a career beyond but realized the struggles of making a living that would follow. And so I veered into journalism, where I applied many of those skills in designing newspaper pages, photo essays, and cropping pictures. Thousands and thousands of them.

It also led to a love of typefaces and calligraphy and book design.

Maybe I haven’t strayed that far.

I’ve also worked with some of the best photojournalists in the field and known a number of outstanding artists. I even married one.

On a more mundane level, I sometimes shift into cartoon mode and begin seeing people as whimsical drawings. Or I ponder how they would photograph. (No, I’m not staring at you the way you think I am, sorry if it’s making you uncomfortable.)

Well, for that matter, I did meet some famous cartoonists when I was working for the newspaper syndicate and selling their work to our clients.

I would have loved to have taken up photography at an early age, but it was expensive. I had to admire – and rely on – others. Besides, it took trained skills and great patience.

The fact that a professional photographer is at the center of my Freakin’ Free Spirits novels should be no surprise. He fits into the classic role of the Witness, as I’ve since heard.

As I’ve revised these works, an awareness of how ancient his kind of labor has become. Everybody’s taking pictures these days – kazillions of them – and cell phones can produce better images than many of the best cameras could have just decades ago. Does anybody even make color film nowadays?

I’m having to explain the dimensions of working in a darkroom, mixing chemicals, handling negatives and wet prints. Even loading or unloading film could be hazardous. And then there was the matter of “reading” negatives on a light table, often with an eyepiece pressed to your face. All if it’s history.

Look, finally having a digital camera has allowed me to play with capturing the world much as I often see it. That part’s been fun. But I still don’t consider it photography – not REAL photography. It’s something I do on the run. I’m not waiting hours for the light to get just right. I’m not using a tripod or lenses I can control or filters or any of that. It’s just shoot and run.

In contrast, I know real photography the moment I see it. It simply exists on a superior level. It always will. The artist, however human, and not the machine, will be in control of the instrument. Play it like a violin, then. And make it sing.


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