“Fox and Hens.” Venice, CA. 2015. Leica M240. 35mm Summicron.
Shoot Like A Writer.
A guy who sells cameras once told me that if you cover one eye, that’s like a 35mm lens. Both eyes open is more like a 21mm. Spend any time in photography and you’ll end up down rabbit hole issues like this. Man, I read so much about lenses and cameras, you don’t even know. I feel like the writers know - this guy isn’t reading to learn about the lens, he’s trying to make a decision about something else entirely. But they don’t have the answers to those questions, so they circle and circle. But the blood never spills.
When looking at lenses, it helps to look at photographs. And when looking at photographs, it helps to watch movies. And when watching movies, it helps to read books. And that’s about themes, symbols and metaphors. This is how the mind comes to makes sense of the world. I wasn’t thinking about predators and prey (any more than we are always thinking about predators and prey), I was thinking about this guy on the bike. Just hanging out behind him. I have a great shot of him by himself. Then I heard women talking. They were talking in another language and as they passed the woman in white gave me a dirty look. If she’d just walked by and not leered at me, I might have continued on without noticing. But now she’s in my sights. Then he notices them, too. And then in a second I feel the symbolism. Shift to the left, pounce.
This shot has nothing to do with lenses or photography. Photography has little to do with photography. Painting has little to do with paint. Some people talk about being in the right place and the “decisive moment.” I don’t know about that. I think it’s about how quick you make connections. How fast the idea comes to you. And how developed your instinct is to capture it. That just happens with time. And with an incurable desire to hunt.
If there’s any common thread among the photographs I love in the world, it’s the conveyed story. Story makes you feel emotion. Environment helps, that’s part of it. But a photographer has sudden epiphanies, like a writer does, where stories and symbols pop into their head. This to me is what photography is all about. It is only this. Everything else, equipment, settings… is to be learned and then forgotten.
Did you ever sit around as a kid and make up stories? Of course you did. If you think you didn’t, you’ve just forgotten. It’s ingrained, so that we can imagine a predator and save ourselves. You have it. My lady wrote a heart-wrenching story about an elephant that lost her babies in first grade. It’s up on her parents’ wall in Canada. That’s as much a photograph as any photograph. You see the world and you think, oh, I know this story. This is about humanity. This man, sitting against his bike like that up on a hill as people walk by below - I know that posture. I saw that somewhere, where was that? And then it hits you…
Keep both eyes open and shoot like a writer.