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MigrantMother

One of the popular photography traits that depresses me most is the lamentable focus on technical perfection.

Sharpness rules. Reams of online verbiage are devoted to lens comparisons. Photographers spend days taking pictures of grids and test images searching for that elusive nirvana of the ultimate crisp image.

It’s almost always complete and utter waste of energy. In many ways it reminds me of a certain type of musician who develops incredible technique as he or she runs through scales or some other vapid demonstration of dexterity and says nothing at all musically.

Look at the famous depression era portrait of a migrant mother taken by Dorothea Lange. As a portrait it’s all wrong. You’re supposed to focus on the eyes of your main subject, not the collar of her dress. She’s blurring out. Not the way it is supposed to be done.

Yet… this is and remains a superb and iconic image because the photographer was concerned primarily with composition and capturing a special moment. It is perfectly proportioned and laden with emotional impact. It outclasses – by lightyears – all of the technically perfect garbage that rises to the top of displays of popular photography.

Ultimately this image demonstrates, in terms of photography, the difference between art and craft.

And art is what I like.

 

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