This picture makes me feel like a phony.
Compositionally, the photograph is nearly perfect. The sight lines of the rocks and the mountain in the back converge on Kemper. There is strong texture and contrast between the foreground and background. Kemp forms the apex of a natural triangle, and the rule of thirds has been followed with strict adherence. He’s looking away from the camera, natural and insouciant. Hell, the wildflowers are even in bloom.
Yes. This is technically ideal, and, had I planned it, I could not have executed it much better. But that is just the thing. I didn’t plan it. I snapped the picture of Kemper on a rock in Garrapata State Park because he had come with me on a cold and windy morning, and he found a rock that he wanted to climb, and far be it for me to stop him from doing what brought me such joy when I was his age.
Perhaps there was something in my subconscious that told me to stand exactly where I stood to take this picture, rather than a couple feet to the left or right. Perhaps it wasn’t happenstance. I still remember one of my elementary school art teachers looking at a lump of unformed clay with me and saying that we had to take what the clay gave us. What she meant, I think, was that an artist is not always the creator (if ever), but instead is—to use an archaic, but fitting term—the wright, who makes the best of what is given to them.
Ultimately, I didn’t have to take the photograph. I didn’t have to make the decisions I did in post-processing, to bring out the contrast between the foreground and the misty background, or to crop it as I did. But there we are.
This photo is not going to win any prizes or be displayed in a gallery, but it will make the rotation on the slideshow in my office. When I look up and glance at it for the moment it remains, I will appreciate the happenstance of art a bit more, understanding that as a photographer I am not so much a creator as a wright…and that is OK.