The hardest thing…

… in photography could be in my opinion to bring out that sense of innocence that most good pictures have.

A lot of photographs that are made today lack of that spontaneity, that sense of simple pleasure to get an image. Sometimes it is too much well done, like things are very aligned etc… It spoils the innocence. Every so often it cries “look at what I am capable of”. That is true for a lot of street photographs as well (including lots of mine) since sometimes it just says “Hey look how brave I am, how witty I can be”.

And that sounds utterly pompous to me. And pompous is the worst thing.

I am a big fan of Garry Winogrand, I love Friedlander’s work, for many reasons. But maybe what I enjoy the most with those two photographers is the sense of playing they convey in their work. You look at their photographs and you can feel the very simple pleasure they got just by clicking what they see, and they never get jaded by that routine. Instead it’s like they always enjoy what the world out there has to offer, as if it is an endless visual playground so to speak (actually that is what it is). And they had (have) fun with it. And needless to say that this kind of fun is addictive.

Lee Friedlander - Maria Friedlander. Southwestern United States, 1969

There is no Art with big “A” involved here, but maybe much more than that. It’s like Charlie Parker playing his saxophone, or Mozart improvising on a keyboard. What drove those guys first and foremost is the sheer fun of it, at least I strongly believe that was it. The “great design” comes after, but has its source in that.

Photograph by Garry Winogrand

If you are too much of a serious photographer, very concerned about your art, I bet you might as well have missed that shot.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not mean that the content of the image itself should be funny. And actually you can have fun in the making of things that look dead serious. But for what is worth I believe that whatever you might come up with, fun is the best antidote against preconceptions. And that’s when you got rid of such preconceptions, established rules etc… that you have a chance to make something interesting. “Breaking the rules” for the sake of it most of the time is pompous, but instead just naively ignoring that there is a right way and a wrong way gives you a chance to use unusual paths.

A reason why I like the snapshot below is not only that it was done by my son, but that I feel it conveys that sort of visual innocence which is refreshing, the very simple pleasure to get an image for the sake of it. It is not a “great” photograph, it can not be because my son has no clue what a “great photograph” is, and (hopefully) he just doesn’t care . He said (in French) “Hey Dad, I want to take that…” and the intent here is merely the fun of a visual experience.

New-York - a shot by my older (8-year) kid

That has made me re-think about the Carmen Soth case (I should say controversy) which was debated here and here few months ago. I still don’t know what were the very motivation of Alec Soth here but never mind… I think he has a point: you should sometimes let you kids play with your camera.


There is no shallowness in the very fun of making things. That is the real fuel, nothing comes close to that.


One thought on “The hardest thing…

  1. Good blog …

    When an image or the result of taking an image no longer surprises me, in a way whats the point of taking it…

    For me it’s a continuous experiment, to ‘boldly’ go where I haven’t been before…. in search of ‘freshness’ 🙂

    I like to be surprised by my own images… as much as I like to be surprised y the images of others 🙂


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