Musings on Photography

Process, not product

Posted in art is a verb, process by Paul Butzi on June 26, 2007


One reason I prefer to focus on process rather than outcome is that the quality of the experience is often independent of the quality of the outcome.    If we, for just a moment (and only for the purposes of argument), define a ‘bad’ photograph as one that does not seem to please viewers, and a ‘great’ photograph as one that seems to please viewers a great deal, you can have a great time making ‘bad’ photographs, and you can have a unpleasant time making ‘great’ photographs. I’m not talking about physical comfort, here.  I’ve had a wonderful time photographing on the beach, cold and shivering and with the drizzle running down inside my collar. 

Lately, I’ve been trying to let go of aiming for great photographs, and instead just picking up the camera, strolling out the studio door, and aiming to have a nice time.  I’ve been leaving the tripod behind, and while that still doesn’t feel normal, it no longer feels unfathomably strange. 

I’ve also been indulging my inclination to go deep, as Colin Jago would put it.  And I’m finding, as he suggested, that I don’t get to the end of the block.  (Ok.  Where I live, we don’t have blocks.  I don’t even get halfway down my fairly lengthy driveway, though.)  Most days, I don’t get more than 100 feet from the studio.

I haven’t decided whether the photos I’m getting are any good.  Email feedback on the ones I’ve posted here suggests that they aren’t.  That’s ok; I’m not finished yet.

But I am definitely having a fine time.  As a daily practice, it’s restorative.

7 Responses

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  1. Derek said, on June 26, 2007 at 11:12 am

    Maybe the idea of “no pain, no gain” applies to photography to. If you experience some emotional or physical discomfort while taking pictures, it might improve your photography in the long run.

  2. Wanda said, on June 26, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    I really enjoy the pictures you post. I am in love with color and what better place than in nature to capture it. In the 1940’s and 50’s my farmer dad was an amatuer photographer who had his own darkroom in our only bathroom. I can still smell the chemicals and see the ends of the roll of film when I think about it.

  3. Mike said, on June 26, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    Pain: “physical suffering or distress, as due to injury, illness, etc.” No pain means absence of the above. Avoid pain when you can — that’s healthy.

    “No pain no gain” — macho topgun b/s.

  4. Frank said, on June 27, 2007 at 6:44 am

    What I keep hearing over and over is that you are having fun on these short wandering down the block. Where is the pain in that? Where is it written that every click of the shutter has to have serious intent? There are times I literally giggle at the fun pictures I take just for the hell of it.


  5. julie said, on June 27, 2007 at 8:16 am

    Maybe another outlook, and a less dramatic one, on the ‘no pain no gain’ thing is the idea of working outside your comfort zone in order to progress, artistically. If we only did stuff we’re entirely comfortable with, I can imagine it might stagnate rather easily.

    To go back to the idea in the original post, if you only concentrate on the product rather than the process it almost limits you to the extent of what you can imagine as an outcome, rather than allowing for those ‘happy accidents’ that occur when you just enjoy yourself and play around a bit. That way, you also let your instinct take control instead of your logic, which can be revealing and quite liberating. It’s what I’m struggling to do just now…

  6. Ed Richards said, on June 30, 2007 at 7:18 am

    Where do prints come into photography as process? Is looking at the images sufficient? Are you treating it like fishing without bait?

  7. Prints « Musings on Photography said, on July 6, 2007 at 11:38 am

    […] the comments on Process, not Product, Ed Richards asks: Where do prints come into photography as process? Is looking at the images […]

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