2022 09 18
Subtraction

So much of photography is subtraction.

What to include, what to exclude in a photograph. Which photographs you take that deserve attention, an edit, a second look and which photographs are best left unattended. Everything is a constant process of elimination, a paring down to arrive at the purist essence of what you’re trying to capture and communicate. If there are elements in your photographs that don’t contribute to this essence, it’s best to leave them out.

Life is that way too. For a long time, I was focused on acquiring new possessions, activities, and friendships. Now I’m in a constant state of reduction. If there’s a shirt sitting unworn in my closet for a year, there’s little chance I’ll wear it next year. A chilled Stella Artois on a bar top had a totemic importance for me well into middle age. When I left alcohol behind for good, it created a huge space for me to double down on what was essential.









However subtraction brings new challenges. As a late career photographer, I struggle with the craft’s careerist aspects. The ability to take a good photograph is a lifelong pursuit. How to get it out to the broader world is a whole other matter. I spent my working life, before photography, in marketing but knowing what to do doesn’t create the will to do it. Many of my photographs end up like orphans, ignored in a folder on a hard drive, stuffed into the drawer of my desk in my studio.

The mental clearing needed to create and realize a good photograph is far removed from the marketing of it. When I try to combine them, even for a moment, it feels deleterious, an impingement on the essence I was originally after. Or maybe, more likely, it’s just me being lazy, my handy rationale to not bother. The equation is simple after all: every creative person must decide what they’re willing to do to showcase their work. I’m still figuring it out.