“The mystery isn’t in the technique, it’s in each of us.”
- Harry Callahan
Harry Callahan’s quote seems particularly poignant in the digital age. After all, at no other time has the means of taking a photograph been so available. Photography is the most democratic of art forms: the basics of capturing a scene require virtually no training. And most of us have cameras in our pockets.
But with this explosion of approachability comes stratification on technique, that somehow some photos aren’t worthy based on how they’re done: Film enthusiasts may cast aspersions on those with DSLRs; those with DSLRs may scoff at the point-and-shoot; Polaroid enthusiasts may look down on the Instagramer; Daguerreotypists can’t see what all the fuss with HDR is about. We become identified with our technique.
Callahan’s quote predates all of this, of course. And it rather reminds me of the story of Walker Evans telling a student that asking a photographer what type of camera he used is like asking an author what typewriter he used. Callahan’s sentiment, that it’s not the how that matters, but that indescribable spark of brilliance that each of us carries, is more crucial than ever. And that makes photography wonderful: we can all take the photographs, we can all share that mystery within us.
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