the quiet ones

by julie posted January 7, 2009

Earlier on I posted about missing good images because they get lost in the mountains that we shoot these days (broad generalisation acknowledged)…

Is there a way to reduce the volume, but not lose what’s important? Is there a way to know, in advance, what is important?

If I were to shoot less, would I miss the images that I end up liking most after the editing phase? Does feeling free to shoot as much as I like at the time help me produce the good stuff?

If I edit more strictly, would I miss the ones that I often find on a second pass of the raw files, or the ones that I initially just like (with a lowercase ‘l’) but follow on later to really grow on me?

I can go through my archives months and years later and find that the shots I was most pleased with/proud of at the time seem insubstantial now, and realise that some others sitting quietly in the sidelines – the ones I haven’t printed or put in my portfolio – have more weight than I’d ever have expected, had I not taken that later look. The crowds of thumbnails dazzle our eyes and our brains and it’s far too easy to be seduced by the simplest compositions or the prettiest colours when we’re doing our initial cull.

Ii suppose I’ll only be able to muse about this a certain amount before I’m actually out there shooting again and it’ll become part of what I’m doing ‘in the field’. I wonder if that will bring any insight? I won’t be thinking about it consciously… when I’m out there, I’m doing my thing and none of it is too well choreographed – but I think when I roll these ideas around in my brain when I’m not photographing, some of it sticks in my subconscious and comes into play whether I think about it at the time or not.

I suppose I’ll just have to see.

6 Responses to the quiet ones

  1. I think that the quiet ones are always there. Perhaps we have more of them when we shoot more. It’s like when you first enter a noisy room. There is a cacophony of unintelligible sound, then, slowly, you don’t notice it so much. Soon thereafter, you’re able to pick apart distinct conversations or perhaps even begin to recognize a familiar voice or two.

    I think that the process of taking the photos is this way for me. It takes a while to get past the cacophony and get down to the distinct. With constant exposure to photographing, that is daily practice, those intervals, I think, tend to shrink and the quiet ones appear more quickly. To continue with the metaphor, the distinct voices are heard more easily.

    In post processing, what you see today may not be what you see tomorrow. The quiet one of tomorrow may be that which seems like chaff today. It is highly, I suspect, mood dependent. Tastes, I think, change frequently and are dependent on emotion.

    Another fantastic post, Julia.

  2. Isn’t this kind of related to the process that Winogrand went through where, after a day’s shooting, he would just throw the rolls into a drawer and not even develop them for months because he wanted some distance and objectivity from the actual shoot? I guess what I’m saying is that I think regardless of how many images you shoot, that there is a subconscious or unconscious process to photography that drives you to capture some images at the time whose ‘weight’ isn’t apparent until time has passed.

  3. Distance.
    As noted Chris. As we all take pictures, we are emotionally attached to the situation, people, subjects and/or location of the pictures. Therefore we give emotional value to all the pictures. But independent viewer does not have such value, he sees only the picture and also judges the picture purely on base of the qualities of the picture.
    It is very hard to make such distance and lots of famous photographers admit that they need some distance time to be able to judge their own work.
    And it has relation also to your previous article about extensive amount of captured pictures. If you work with the camera and if you do “photography”, not only taking snaps, there is nothing wrong about having lots of pictures.
    As my favourite documentary photographer Jindrich Streit ( told me, he believes that every single time he presses the shutter, it is going to be good picture, the keeper. But after all the selection, he has one good picture from seven or eight rolls of film.
    The personal discipline in selecting process is what makes the difference.
    Shooting film helps a lot, because there is the mentioned delay. Working on projects, I loved the possibility to leave films in a fridge and to develop them at the end of the shooting part of the project. And even after that, I did not hurry with making contact prints for the first selection. And I have asked people I respect, to make their own selection (yes, crayons are lovely tool). It was the most interesting part of selection to go through all the contact sheets and to compare my own opinion with opinion of other people. And not only photographers. That followed by small prints, another selection, larger prints, another selection and the final blow ups.
    I am currently learning how to develop similar workflow with digital medium. So far, I am using web gallery to get feedback on few pictures and it also helps.
    And back to the very beginning of this typing. We don’t see the quite ones because our eyes are blinded by emotions from the photography experience. The greater distance we can get, the easier is to recognize the quite ones. And no matter how many pictures we have to see and judge, we will always see the our keepers in the end.

  4. I do think there’s a lot to be said for distance (time-wise) from shooting to editing (digital processing). But… isn’t that emotional link that you have with the picture, having been there and saw the scene and framed and clicked, that influences your editing choices and processing decisions, isn’t that what makes it more yours? What does that add to the final image that you wouldn’t have if you were viewing them after a time and as objectively as possible?

    (thinking out loud here…)

  5. It is nice that you are thinking loud.
    Well, the time and distance won’t add anything to the picture. But coming back from an event, I am always full of memories and emotions. Connected to people, things that happened and food I ate. Therefore I have tendency to prioritise pictures containing those memories. And it is very easy to overlook “the quite ones”. That why I like the distance. It helps me to be more objective, because the quality of picture is not just my personal experience connected and evoked by the subjects in the picture, but something more. Something that could be interesting also for independent viewer of the picture. And most of the time I found the “quite ones” being the best ones from the whole set.

  6. I can understand the reasoning for trying to take an objective approach to editing. Although I think Julie made a very valid point, whether we like it or not – there is often emotion behind the impulse that causes us to trip that shutter. Is trying to separate that always a good thing? I’ve always been one to believe that some images are meant for immediate harvesting, and others require a bit to age in our reflection upon them. I like the term “quiet ones” – fits quite well.

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