Friday, July 23, 2010

Too Many Pictures

Sunset on Lake Michigan
I love looking at pictures. This may explain, in part, why I got a couple of degrees in Art History, which, after all, was more like a slide show than an actual major and might explain why I never actually 'did' anything with those degrees. But my 'education' aside, my fascination with visual imagery has not faded, especially now, in this digital age of photography.

I have often told myself that for me, photography is a waste of time. If I have some 'free' time, I always feel like I should be writing. But, when I can't face that blank page (sometimes that's daily) I turn to the old eye-candy and pretend to work by playing with my photos. Besides being a distraction from my writing, there's no real benefit to my photographic obsession. However, that doesn't deter me in the slightest.

Being a gadget lover and the direct descendent of my father Bill (who loved nothing more than buying a new camera) I am always 'buying' a new camera to try it out. I put buying in quotes because I seldom keep one of these cameras; almost invariably they prove to be poorly designed products in spite of their heavy price tags and I return them long before the ten days or two weeks that they allow me. When asked why I am returning it, my answer is often the same: The truth is, most of these new gadgets aren't worth the plastic they are made with, and I seldom, if ever find a device I would like to keep.

The same cannot be said about my photos. While I try to be careful and limit the number of pictures that I shoot, these days, with faster cameras and lots of little memory cards, I allow my habit to get out of hand. Way out of hand.

For example, now back three days from Michigan, and despite having spent the last three nights sorting though, selecting, cropping and yes, even deleting pictures, I am only halfway through. And that's just with the first pass. I cut it down from 2300 images to just 400. Then I have to pick the best of those and post them for friends and family to see.

And even that (178) will be too many pictures.

In a turn of phrase that echoes Lynda's constant advice about my writing ("Too many words, Mr. Dubov...) I can hear my other mother Billie telling me with each press of the shutter, "Too many pictures, Mr. Dubov, too many pictures."

I know, Billie, I know. But what can I do? I love looking at pictures.

The failure I think, is not my own but the rest of the world, or at least the rest of my friends and family. My brother David notwithstanding (he posted a few dozen fabulous photographs of his recent trip to Ireland) no one else in my group seems inclined to satisfy my hunger for fresh imagery.

Not even my brother-in-law Christopher--who is by profession a photographer--puts up as many pictures as often as I do. That's not a knock on Chris; besides being a full-time teacher and a new Dad, he at least has the editorial skill and restraint necessary to keep from overwhelming his viewers. Plus all his photographs are really good, as opposed to the kind of point and shoot snapshots that flow endlessly from my little pack of digital cards.

My father eschewed the snapshot with great effort. He rarely took photographs of us, his family, choosing instead to focus his lens on more 'arty' subjects like abandoned buildings and abstract patterns and textures. Good photographs, but not so satisfying when I go looking for meaning and resonance in them.

Consequently, I have no such artificial restriction on my eye. In fact, I think that in this digital day, when we have more 'arty' sunset and flower shots than we'll ever be able to use in print brochures and websites (and of course, I take too many of those, too), the photos that really matter will be the ones that capture us, people, in a place and time. Snapshots though they may be, these images have meaning and resonance, even with a limited audience, but without that resonance, a photograph is just another picture.

But, as you know, I love looking at pictures. Here are mine. Where, dear Reader, are yours?

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