As my friends know, I am somewhat obsessed with taking photos.
This made me think how far photography has advanced since my father made a darkroom in the old barn behind our house in New Jersey. The old barn not only served as a darkroom, but also as a studio for portraits.
With technological advances of cameras, lenses and computer software, the art of photography has shifted somewhat in the direction of editing software, and a good editor can create a masterpiece out of a photo that is just OK.
Don’t get me wrong: A photographer still needs a good eye as he/she practices that art. Ansel Adams had a great eye and produced photographs with old technology that told a story and stimulated the imagination of everyone who saw them.
There is no bad photograph, in my opinion, because the photographer/artist saw something that stimulated his/her imagination. That is exactly why we should never criticize a photograph.
It may not appeal to your sense of artistry, but it is art regardless of what you think. Criticizing it would be like criticizing Picasso because you do not like abstracts.
The photographer saw something that maybe you are not seeing, and that is what makes it art.
Editing photos through computer software is an art, as I said above. There is a danger, and I have fallen into that trap of editing too much and forgetting that the original photo told a story and was an outstanding photo all by itself.
So I am more careful now and always make sure I keep the original and go back to it often.
I am not Ansel Adams and not Kim Jew, an Albuquerque photographer famous for photos taken around the world. Each photographer is an artist who creates through observation and imagination.
If I have a client, I try to capture what the client wants. When I take photos for pleasure, I shoot and let my imagination take over. In the Southwest, that’s easy because we have history at every turn of the corner, and it is a history that I grew up with while watching westerns as a young boy in New Jersey.
I am an observer, and I find myself looking for shots when I drive around the city. If I have my camera, which I usually do, I will stop and start shooting what I saw.
At the zoo, I will sometimes stand in front of the Great Ape habitats for hours to get what I call “the shot.”
Photography today is not my father’s photography of yesterday, when you either developed your own photos or waited days to see what you had. Today, we get instant feedback and are not limited to 12 or 24 shots on a roll of film.
Photography will continue to advance technologically in every aspect: cameras, lenses and computer editing software. But there will never be a technological advance that can replace a good eye and the imagination of the photographer/artist.
When you hear someone say, “He has a nice camera that takes great photos,” remind them that it is the photographer that takes the photos, not the camera.
Keep observing and imagining, and keep shooting those photos to satisfy your inner artist.
(Roy Slezak is a former Rio Rancho councilor and occasional contributor to the Observer. You can see a selection of his photos on his ZAKTOGRAPHY page on Facebook.)