I’ve never been particularly creative when it comes to visual stuff. I have no talent for drawing or painting, although with patience and the inclination I can produce a decent sketch. Then again, I imagine a lot of people can do the same thing. I’m unremarkable.
I’m comfortable with my own perceptions, and my own taste. I know what I like, and why I like it. I have several friends who are spectacular in this arena, including more than one who make a living at it.
Photography has always had an awkward place in the visual arts, at least in my mind. Nicéphore Niépce is generally considered the inventor of photography, and invention is what it was; it sprang from science, and innovations were shared between science and art. Louis Daguerre was a well-known theater designer before he started dabbling in this new medium, for example. Nearly 200 years ago.
Then there’s the universal nature of it. Everyone takes pictures, and of course now it’s just crazy. Wading through this swamp of captured moments can make my eyes glaze over, and sometimes the people who try the hardest produce the most pedestrian images. It’s tempting to intuit ability and talent because you’re interested, and look: You made a photograph. That must mean something.
I was very interested in photography when I was a kid; I even had a darkroom set-up, a closet where I filled bins with chemicals and made contact prints. I needed an enlarger and never got one, and eventually the interest moved on to things I actually had ability to do, not needing much in the way of equipment.
And equipment is big. Knowing what you have and how it works is at least half of photography, I suspect, and probably more. The creative sensibility can’t be learned or taught, or at least that’s what I’ve observed. I like to take pictures and share them; I don’t have a gift for it.
I spent the past week in Austin, just getting a booster shot of Bix, and while I took my share of pictures there was less of an imperative. Mostly I use my phone to capture moments I can send to my wife and my mother; I don’t even bring my DSLR anymore.
I compensate for what I lack in talent by taking a bazillion shots, along with some video in case there’s a screen capture I like. This is the seduction of digital photography; you can take as many as you like and hope for the best. It’s the only art form I can think of that can produce something special by accident. Not special the way a composer or writer or sculptor, etc., can have a happy accident of creativity; I’m talking about a guy with a phone, and a little boy.
So, we went to Ruby’s, a popular BBQ place in Austin that has a nice playground in the back. After some spectacular food, we took him out to play for a bit. He got on the big climbing toy and crawled into the slide tunnel thing while I waited at the bottom, ready to snap a picture just because I could.
So this was an accident.
I just snapped it and moved on. Later, liking it and wandering through filters, wondering if I could improve it a bit, I tried grayscale and this happened. It’s not a particularly high resolution, and obviously I didn’t make any adjustments in terms of aperture or shutter speed; I just pointed and clicked.
But I’m left with a nice reminder, and I think I’m going to print and hang it above my desk, where I can look up and remember. It’s about a boy, and it always is.