It’s Just a Photograph. Or is it?

Thoughts for Today from Joe Farace

Late in his life Richard Strauss was constantly being approached by adoring fans asking, “what is the story behind this music?” His reply was, “It’s just a piece of music.” Or, as Freud once noted, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

I’ve always believed that photography was the universal language but that doesn’t mean that along these 150 years we didn’t evolve a language of our own. And every now and then it changes. One of the more interesting examples is that sometime in the 1930’s the meaning of ‘burn’ and ‘dodge’ sin the darkroom wapped places. Don’t know how or why that happened but it did.

And for reasons known only to Theia, Greek goddess of sight and the shining light of the clear blue sky, some people have escalated the ‘take a picture’ or ‘make a picture’ argument by tossing around the epithet ‘nice capture’ as a way of complimenting a photographer’s image as if they were chasing butterflies instead of the light.

Anyway, all of this stuff popped into my head as I was pondering a comment about one of my car images that I posted on social media and in which a commenter asked if he could see the photograph straight out of the camera and not the processed image that I posted.

The SOOC movement is one I don’t completely understand and seems akin to asking Edward Weston if you could look at his negatives to compare them to the finished print of “Pepper #30” and ask why he couldn’t just make a straight print. My friend Mark Toal answered the question more eloquently that I could this way. You can also read my book review of In Camera: Perfect Pictures Straight out of the Camera here. My answer is simpler: It’s just a photograph that I made because I’ve always believed that photography should be fun. And that’s all there is to it.




One of my influences is the late William Mortensen. His book —The Command to Look—on a completely different approach to photographic composition has been lovingly reprinted and while it contains some unusual, to say the least, supplementary material, Mortensen’s words and images are worth the detour. New copies are $16.41 with used selling for $11, as I write this. It’s not an easy read but well worth the effort.