Creating the Purposeful Photograph For Viewing

I set up the camera carefully. Take my time, find my view, then adjust it. Ever so slightly. A little more of this, a little less of that. What you leave out is just as important as what you leave in a photograph.

You can see the whole process here. And it is a process. Bit by bit, a photograph is constructed. I shoot film so it’s a process that begins with loading 4×5 film into film holders in a dark bag and ends after the shoot, the fine-tuning, the focus and exposure, back in the dark bag unloading the film into a developing tank, mixing chemicals, processing the film, drying it and then either printing a photograph in my darkroom or scanning the negative, often both.

What for? Seriously, why bother? Where are these photographs going to be seen? The ends have to justify the means, no?

I can say I enjoy the process, especially shooting 4×5, but what does that process get me if the end result is a glance for three seconds. What good is having ultra-high quality and control if no one ever sees that quality?

What matters at all if they only stop to look for 2s or 3s tops?

This is the example of viewing photographs on Instagram and why I am not interested in that as a delivery platform. It just doesn’t support photography. Look at the intervals of a typical user, a film shooter in fact, glancing and liking my photos.

It doesn’t honor the effort, the nuance of the photograph. It’s just a heart-generator and an ad-revenue delivery system for some corporation, and ultimately, it’s a poor delivery system for seeing photography.

One I don’t have to accept for my art. I’m tech beat!

There is a feeling you get when someone LIKES or HEARTS your photo, but what is it really? Do they simply LIKE and HEART everything you post? Because it’s you? Are they really responding to their connection to you more than the photograph? Are we learning anything about making good photographs as a result of these LIKES and HEARTS?

I suspect not. We’re just getting a dopamine fix that someone patted us on the back. And we think we’re doing pretty good.

That’s not enough for me. I do photography to make photographs. Large prints that are framed and can be seen and looked at for longer than 2-3 seconds.

Otherwise, just point the phone out the window and grab the shot–it’s good enough for the phone delivery medium and we’ll get the same reaction–LIKE and HEART, and the same exact glance as we get now regardless of the process.

It’s why movies need to be seen on a big screen. There’s no immersion into the film if you’re watching Star Wars on your phone. You can say you saw it, but in fact, you missed it.

It’s why art in a text book or online can’t compete with a walk through an art gallery or museum. The Louvre, don’t even get me started–you haven’t seen art until you’ve been through a place like that. The space only adds to the experience.

And right now, there is no experience on the phone, on Instagram, for 2-3 seconds, none that is worth my time as a film photographer in the process of making art, making photographs.

A comment on this story that sums it up.

Want to support my shows? You can, just visit this link at Paypal, or go to to add your monthly contribution to keep the lights on!

Check out my YouTube Channel of Photography Talks: my 6×6 Portraits Blog (you’re here) and my Daily Photography Podcast. Thanks!

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