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WTC Panorama

Bottom to top (click for full size)

Bottom to top (click for full size, higher quality)

The full height of the memorial pool and the under-construction tower don’t fit in one shot. Assembling this panorama had to wait until I returned home. It works well enough for clicking some buttons. Some of the mood is there: the soft quiet, the people under umbrellas, a kind of concrete numinousness.

It’s not the best picture. Letting the camera control exposure wasn’t the best thing to let slide, and the sides are severely trimmed, a loss you don’t see but I know about. So much is outside the frame in any picture, and in this case I know what’s missing. How do you capture the sense of empty volume created by tall buildings after work has cleared them of people, the streets free of cars, the tiny figures lost under the trees? Even when everything is captured the representation leaves something out. There is always less than there is, but I think the best creators learn to trust the viewer or reader to fill in the voids.

To take a real picture is technical care combined with the sheer luck of being fast enough, or slow enough. Uptown in the bustle is the International Center of Photography, which a friend has recommended to prevent me from missing this great treasure oddly holding out at 6th and 43rd. Weeks from taking this picture I visit on a Friday donate-what-you-will night and find my former urge to walk in with no offering is gone, replaced with half-price generosity. (Seven bucks is all the cash I have.) The images are excellent, across all history. Downstairs is a Weegee exhibit, featuring not only his Depression-through-WWII crime splatter in hard flashbulb relief, but also a selection of his candid-misfortune-porn photography contemporaries. I forget the name, but one man has captured perfect scenes of suspect and cops: the suspect being moved down a bland hall, the cops working against his resistance, dark doorways hit hard by the flash, the bodies perfectly proportioned and cropped and blocked in a Dutch-angled frame. The guy was ready, but chance did more work. The photograph glows with time’s frozen energy.

On the other end of time and chance, I believe Ansel Adams would limit himself to one plate a day. It forced him to really look at things and not seize the first opportunity. This fall of light, this shape, this composition–finger on the shutter cable, he could not be more deliberate: this is what I make today.

Digital cameras free us from the expense of mistakes or experimenting, but give us too much plenty. Shooting everything just means you have that much more to look at, my first boss said. I have far too many pictures to write blog posts for all of them.

Now that cameras are everywhere, pictures are everywhere. Have they become as invisible and obnoxious as advertising? Maybe. The internet is crammed with funny cat pictures and people keep looking at them. Some shudder at the image becoming everything, but I see no harm. We are visual creatures. The image gives us an objective nuance without the encumbrance of words.

As a photograph, it is not perfect. As an image, it resonates with what it has captured. You are the one giving it meaning, not me.


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