Discovery Excites Me to Focus

San José de Gracia Church, Late afternoon light, Las Trampas, New Mexico 2014    Photograph ©Craig Varjabedian

I have been rereading the Daybooks of Edward Weston lately; the great photographer's journals that I first read while I was a beginning photography student at the University of Michigan many years ago. Weston's writing is thoughtful and perceptive and I have found myself, over the years, returning to the books many times for inspiration, clarity and solace. A quote by Weston came to mind the other day while I was making the photograph above. It was inspired I am sure by conversations I was having with two wonderful photographers named Dolph and Jeanne from Tyler, Texas who had joined me for a private workshop:

I start with no preconceived idea - discovery excites me to focus - then rediscovery through the lens - final form of presentation seen on ground glass, the finished print previsioned completely in every detail of texture, movement, proportion, before exposure - the shutter's release automatically and finally fixes my conception, allowing no after manipulation - the ultimate end, the print, is but a duplication of all that I saw and felt through my camera. – Edward Weston

" . . . of all that I saw and felt through my camera." It seems to me that we must imbue in our pictures a sense of how we feel about what we are photographing. Having the best gear and mastering the software may be fine but if our photographs share nothing of what we felt—what happened inside of us while we stood witnessing that miraculous moment in front of our cameras, then our images have no life, or as Kahlil Gibran once observed, are just "a form of waiting." My friends from Texas would agree.

P.S. I wish I could have met Edward Weston and sat and talked with him about his pictures. I am grateful that photographer Willard Van Dyke made the film The Photographer in 1948 so that I might be able to virtually get to know the man who made so many incredible photographs. You can view the film and meet Edward too by clicking on the picture above.