The Moment It Happens
Someone asked me today what I am thinking when I press the shutter. When I make a photograph.
I have a very lengthy treatise about the existential reality of making a photo. Here’s the short version.
There’s no way to know what the photograph will be because the screen goes dark during the shutter movement. I didn’t or don’t see the photo I just made.
It is only revealed when it is observed on the negative or screen. When it is measured. When reality is manipulated into being.
I knew when a photographer rushed into the darkroom proclaiming the film about to be developed had the greatest photo ever made that there would be a problem. The promise of a photo that would be on the front pages all across the country the next morning wasn’t going to be met. A photo that would redefine photo coverage from every similar assignment now that this undeveloped photo was in the darkroom.
Eventually, we would learn that if the photographer saw the great photo in the viewfinder, it wasn’t on film or the card. It wasn’t there because the shutter was open, not making an exposure. The viewfinder wasn’t dark.
The reality had already existed by observation in the viewfinder. There wasn’t a stored reality. A reality to be measured. An observed reality.
I’m safe in saying that most photographers never saw their best photo until it was selected for editing. There are exceptions such as photographers using rangefinder cameras such as a Leica. But most news photographers use single-lens-reflex cameras where the mirror flaps up and the screen goes dark during each exposure.
Nothing to see but a black screen.
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