Sometimes we take a photograph because we just love the subject so much.

Ben was so young when I took this.  It was so long ago.  We'd moved into the house the year before and I'd just bought the white chair and the ottoman Ben was sitting on.  To Ben's left is a set of French doors and soft, late afternoon open shade flowed through the big windows.  Ben was sitting and listening to his mother read something like "Winnie the Pooh" or something by Dr. Seuss.  I walked in and saw the light floating across Ben.  I had a Contax G2 with the 45mm lens over my shoulder.  I'm pretty sure I had a roll of Tri-X inside (what else could it have been?)

I smiled and slowed down as I came thru the door.  I got down on my knees to get to Ben's level and pulled the camera up to my face.  I know the meter would read "hot" because the back wall was out of the light stream.  The wall was a gold color.  I instinctively dialed in a minus 1.3 stops but that sounds a bit disingenuous as I write it.  The reality is that the "dialing in" was in my brain.  The camera was set in manual so the "dialing" was more an increase in shutter speed over the meter indication.  I shot three or four frames and, at first, Ben was intrigued by the whole process.  Then he started moving and, with the light levels being what they were, I could no longer freeze action.

The orignal frame has more on each side.  There's an unmade bed to the left of the frame but the white of the sheets was too much of a lure for my eyes so I chopped it off.  That left the right side unbalanced and showed too much of the white chair so I chopped that off too.  Sadly,  this print was made long after I gave up my black and white darkroom so I scanned it with a Nikon LS 4000 scanner and had it output on a Fujix printer.  Had I still had ready access to a darkroom I would have printed it on a multigrade paper and tweaked the contrast in little areas while softening the edges.  The grain would also have been more demure.

I can't really articulate why I think this is a wonderful photograph beyond the biographical reality that it is my own kid.  Since he keeps getting better and better the old print somehow gets better and better to me as well.  I should have the print mounted and framed and hanging somewhere nice.  In reality it is tacked up just over the top of my monitor.....right next to my favorite photograph of his mother, my wife.

The prints are a reality check.  What's important in life?  Has technology made a difference in the quality of my work? (no.)  Do I now understand a bit better why people want family portraits and photographs of THEIR kids? (absolutely.)  Can I do as well with current cameras? (not to date.)  The prints sit where they sit so I can compare current work against known quantities.  While I might have honed my technical chops over time I understand that emotional chops are not time-linear.  Everything gets created in context.

It's important to surround yourself with a work you've done that you really like.  It inspires you to try and try again.


Steve Korn said...

Beautiful image, Kirk. You hit the nail on the head as well.

Keep in touch.

kirk tuck said...

Thanks, Steve.

very1silent said...

For anybody not trying to make a living at photography, that's probably the main motivation.

Phil said...

I hope you have half as much fun writing this blog as I do reading it. I stop by every day. As a fellow Austinite I enjoy seeing familiar landmarks, but most of all I just enjoy reading the insights of an experienced photographer who can really write!

Dave Jenkins said...

My very favorite photograph in all the world, taken several years before I became a professional, hangs on the wall by my desk.

My wife is sitting in my old easy chair, now long gone, with infant Don in her lap while eight-year-old Rob is seated on the ottoman and leaning in, lightly embracing Don. Both are in their PJs, ready for bed. Illumination was from a table lamp beside the chair and another lamp across the room. The camera was a roll-film Polaroid, and the film was their 3000-speed black & white. I sent the 3¼x4¼ print to Polaroid’s copy service and had them make a 5x7.

There many things wrong with this photograph, but not the love and trust, which are palpable.

Rob and Don are now 49 and 42.

Peter Lenz said...

Very clearly written and beautifully illustrated. This blog note also articulates my reasons for taking most of the pictures I take. There is no better reason

Raianerastha said...

Kirk, I think any attempts to improve the technical aspects of this photo would detract from its greatest strength. That strength is "the moment" being shared by a father who passionately loves his son. As you mention, your technique was pretty much seamless: I don't believe you were thinking "OMG this will make a great photo" so much as "Wow, this is a special moment I have to capture forever."

But isn't that how all great photos are made anyway? So often, trying to make a great photo technically can get in the way of making a great photo emotionally. Most people will respond to the emotional strength of an image long before they notice technique.

Yes, the Photo Contest Crowd may ruminate over ways to "improve" the photo, but the rest of the world will respond to the story of the moment you captured.

starrlife said...

I am enjoying reading your posts altho I understand only a fraction. I am a mom who enjoys photography (yep, kinda like white Subarus in a parking lot in VT:) and I've been using a Canon Powershot A80 for 7 years- enjoying the heck out of it. I'm hoping to be getting a T2i kit for Xmas (best I can afford). I think, despite my techno lack, you do a great job in your posts and thanks!