And so what works and what doesn't work?

This is an image of my son, Ben when he was just two years old.  It works for me but does it work for anyone other than me and his mother?  It's hard to say.  I love the pose and the way the light comes through the big double french doors that face north.  I love the way his left arm supports him.  I love the way his toes look and the intent engagement of his eyes.  But is there something universal about the image of a child?

The image was shot with a 45mm lens on a Contax G2.  I used a 400 ISO black and white film and I'm certain I shot this at f2 or f2.8.   The images was grainy to begin with and this is a scan of a Fuji die sublimation print.  Does the look and feel transcend the technical limitations?   Would this be a better image if I'd shot it with a D3x or a Canon 5d mk2?

Sometimes too much knowledge is a dangerous thing.  What if I brought an Elinchrom strobe in a big softbox outside the window and pulled a fill card into the other side?  What if I shot with a camera that had no noise?  It's all academic because I didn't do any of these things and yet, I still have this image tacked to the way behind my monitor where I can see it any time I look up.  And what I see reflected is calmness and content and potential.  He's 14 now and the print endures.  It's a reminder of the arc of my life.

When I look at the wall behind my monitor it has photos that mean something to me.  A print of five year old Ben at a coffee shop with a hot chocolate.  Ben in a big chair at Starbucks.  Ben as the smallest kid in the line of kids waiting to race at the swim meet.  A photo of his mother with the same calm and content look.  My friend, Anne Butler, looking timeless and regal.  A fireman holding his small baby in his arms.
Do these images mean anything to anyone else?  Does it matter?

I read on forums where people ask "What should I shoot?  I'm bored..." and it amazes me.  There is so much beauty everywhere.  Who has time to capture it all?



Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh. That brought tears to my eyes. What a great post.

Don said...

Love this post.

What matters? Connection.
What works? Connection.

Personally I love both of these images, man. To quote a recent article I read somewhere, they are perfect examples of "Emotional Light". Awesome imagery.

Bill Beebe said...


Michael Gowin said...

"There is so much beauty everywhere. Who has time to capture it all?"

Too true.

And the photo of your son reminds me of one my own son that I keep near my desk.

Nothing fancy, just simple open shade, a D70 with a 50mm, and a timeless expression.

Thanks, Kirk. Cheers.

mike murrow said...

God, you summed up the ENTIRE reason I picked up a camera in the first place. The reason I shoot at all, before I got caught up in marketing and branding and trying to win clients and define my style and all that crap. You summed it all up with this post and this line, "There is so much beauty everywhere. Who has time to capture it all?"

Poagao said...

It's true; I'm always amazed at people who can't find anything to shoot. It just seems so improbable. Perhaps it comes from the idea these days that everyone should be a photographer, so that even people who would otherwise not concern themselves with it feel somehow obligated to go through the motions, finding themselves with a camera in their hands, but otherwise at a loss.

Fran├žois said...

About a year since I started reading your blog.
Usually every morning at the office. Routine.
But yes, I wander into Paris with my camera. And yes, there's something universal about your son's picture.
And about your writing, Kirk.


Herman said...

It works for me (the first image).

If you would post it to some flickr group I am sure you would get torn to schreds about the noise, and highlights. But it does not matter.

If the connection is there, it works.

Anonymous said...

What love looks like. Beautiful. Thanks.

Dave Jenkins said...

Keep it up. You're writing your next book as you go!

Andreas said...

Kirk, do you really expect an answer or were your questions of rhetorical nature?

The picture of your son is about perfect I guess, and there is hardly better equipment for such work than Contax with 45 lens and 400 bw film, is there?

I can only imagine that the film was scanned and then oversharpened. Gordon Lewis over at shutterfinger explained to me that there is also something like grain aliasing, which makes grain look worse when scanned. Aliased grain that gets sharpened can look awful. I cannot judge from the web jpeg, but maybe another scan without sharpening could give a better result.
However this is all bla, the image itself rocks.

kirk tuck said...

Rhetorical. But thanks.

Pete Appleby said...

Hi, Kirk. I do like the photo of Ben, quite a lot. Why? It has great emotional content. How can I define 'emotional content'? Kind of like trying to explain love to a teenager who hasn't experienced it yet.

When I see I photo that I really like, I often try to understand why. It is almost always because the image has captured some feeling of the moment, a feeling that I can closely identify with. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad, it doesn't seem to matter if it is a person's portrait, a seascape image, whatever. I find that the technical aspects have very little to do with how much enjoyment I get from it.

LEE said...

Beautiful is simply an understatement for the image of your son. I love it :)

Paul Gero said...

that is one gorgeous frame of your son...can you imagine how thankful he'll be in 30 years that you took the time to make that frame?


Anonymous said...

Very nice. And your article is not only about photography.
Thank you very much, Kirk.