Being There

Close, but not too close– although that did happen, and I did scream.

Robert Capa, the famous photojournalist and rogueish risk-taker, has been quoted as saying, “If your picture isn’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

I fear for my equipment. Is that bad? Maybe all that means is that I won’t ever be taking photographs of soldiers in the actual, physical process of dying.

Of course, Capa was almost as grandiloquent and boastful as he was an actual and excellent portraitist. Also, it appears that he may have staged that photograph. I am pretty sure that, as far as photojournalism and ethics are concerned, that is bad. But hey– how else are you going to protect your standing as a Great Photojournalist?

A quote that is far more to my liking and aspirations, and which was helpfully supplied by an excellent friend and fellow photographer is this one by Arthur “Weegee” Fellig: “f8 and be there.”

The fact is that I was standing there, at Gallaudet University’s tennis courts, watching those awesome Bike Polo guys riding their bikes and swinging their homemade mallets, whizzing by and taking cracks at a tiny wiffleball. I was there, in the cold, hoping that I didn’t get knocked in the teeth and kind of wishing I’d thought of bringing a) more layers, b) some Pabst Blue Ribbon and c) a bike, kind of (I have a very complicated relationship with bikes).

And you weren’t there– which is not bad, because maybe you were doing something else: the odds are high that you were. That’s okay. I am glad I was there, and that I can tell you that I’m pretty sure that move is called a shuffle because Mike (that’s the guy on the bike) is hitting the ball with the side of the mallet. I’m glad it wasn’t you, because maybe you wouldn’t have taken a picture. (Alternately, maybe you would have taken a different picture and that is okay too. Maybe your picture would have been even more amazing.)

I was there. I was happy (if a little cold). And this is my photograph. I want to be there –wherever “there” happens to be– again.

And today is the day I know, for certain, that being there, being present, and being truthful is far more important than the smoke and mirrors of self-aggrandizement.

It’s important just to be. And be there.

(f8 probably helps, too, although it all depends on your lighting conditions. You should probably pack a flash and extra batteries, at any rate.)

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This entry was published on September 1, 2012 at 11:32 pm. It’s filed under DC Dukkha, Photoblogging and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “Being There

  1. Art, including photography, is subjective and personal. Everyone is going to have different ideas on what is good and how to achieve the best whatever. My opinion is that if you like it, feel proud of it, and accept that this is one step along a long road, then you have an excellent piece of art. Five years from now you might be taking photos where you’ll look back at this one and go “I could have done this, this, and this to make that a better picture” but that’s in the future. For now, you took the shot you were comfortable taking.

    Besides, with Photoshop and all the other photo enhancing programs out there, taking a good picture (no blurriness, in focus, and a sharp enough image to manipulate) is only the first step to having a fantastic photo.

    Personally, I like your photo as is.

  2. That’s a fantastic photo, and a really interesting discussion, too. (Glad you and your camera were not injured in the making of this photo. Nor your photojournalistic integrity.)

    I sometimes think of the advice about equipment (and I don’t know who to credit, and I’m probabably just paraphrasing): The best camera is the one you have with you. I’ve seen people get really great shots with really crappy cameras, even disposable cameras. (And lord knows we see lots of crappy photos taken with really expensive SLRs.)

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