Monday, April 18, 2011

My Favorite Photo

Iconic American photographer, Imogen Cunningham, was well known for her botanical photography as well her portraiture and nudes. When asked about her favorite photo, she answered, "Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow."

Spoken like a true master!

Considering the infinite number of photos photographers could possibly capture, it's no wonder a singular favorite is hard, if not impossible, for any of us to decide on.

Let's say, as an example, you're shooting a live model at 1/100th of a second and you've captured, what you might think, is your best and most favorite photo ever! That's way cool. But remember-- There were 99 other photos you could have captured in that single second you captured your favorite. Sure, those other 99 would all have been nearly identical but there still would have been tiny differences, perhaps imperceptible differences, between each of them.

So let's say you spent one minute shooting a model and came away with your fave photo ever. That's great! But there were still 3,599 other photos you could have captured in that one minute. Could one of them been even better than the one you deemed your best or your favorite? Maybe. Maybe not.

Let's say you spent an hour with a model and came away with your favorite photo ever. Awesome! But there were 215,999 other photos you might have snapped with a shutter of 1/100th of a second within that hour. Could one of them had been even better than the one you believe is now your best or favorite? Again, maybe. Maybe not. But the odds are improving there might have been a better or more favorite photo amongst the 215,999 you could have snapped in an hour's worth of shooting time (at that shutter speed) versus one minute of it. And that's only considering the differences between which moment you clicked the shutter and all the other moments you could have clicked it! Obviously, there's way more differences that could have been reflected in the image, altering the singular capture you've crowned your favorite. Way more!

I'll admit this is mostly a semi-photo-philosophical "what if?" exercise. Possibly an absurd one. But lots of photography revolves around a "what if" approach, i.e., what if I do this or what if I do that? Somewhere, amidst all the "what if" possibilities photography offers us, our best work, possibly our one, singular, all-time favorite photo might reside. Maybe that's why Ms. Cunningham was always looking forward to that photo she had not yet captured as one that might be her favorite? (Even though, I'm guessing, she knew there would never be one, singular, photo that would or could ever be her ultimate favorite.)

The photo at the top (click to enlarge) is one of my personal, favorite, pretty girl pics I've snapped (for a variety of personal reasons) although I can't say it's my all-time favorite. There are others that are favorites of mine as well although none of them qualify as my all-time favorite either. Like Imogen Cunningham, I believe my favorite remains to be shot. It's amongst those I've not yet captured. And even if, at some future time, I come to believe I've snapped one that becomes my all-time`favorite, I know there will still be more unsnapped photos that will trump it or others I might capture. I guess that's one reason I keep doing this photography thing. It will always be more about what's still to come... way more so than what I've already done.


Ed Verosky said...

I sometimes fall in love with a recent finished photo I've shot, but then that love fades. Another one eventually comes along to replace it. It would be hard to live with the idea that I've already shot my favorite photo ever.

Don said...

This may be a little off-topic.
I was once at a photo lab (remember those) picking up some contact sheets, when this dude walks in to do likewise. After he got his stash, he looked at the sheets through a loupe. All of a sudden, he started swooning and exclaiming that these were some of the best photos he had ever seen. "They were almost all perfect"! I don't know about you, but I have never seen a contact sheet with more than 4 or 5 "keepers", mine or other photographers. Of those keepers, generally only 1 made the cut. I am a tough judge of photographs, but I don't see much self critiquing of work since digital entered our world. What I do see is work that is so photoshopped that it has entered the realm of mixed media.
I admire those great masters, but their work would not be trendy enough for today's market.
The Photodawg