In The Garden With A 55mmSaturday, October 16, 2010
At the height of the quality of the content of Vancouver Magazine (mostly in the 80s and early 90s) when the editor was Malcolm Parry and the art director was Chris Dahl I was often amazed by the following statement that Chris Dahl would make:
“Mac, Alex has provided us with a very nice photograph that has to be a double-page spread. The piece by… has to be shortened to make room for the picture.” I never did reveal this to the writers, whose articles were edited for length because of me. I was a photographer so I could not understand the anguish of having one’s writing edited in that manner.
When I began to write I experienced a personal and new anguish which was that of a writer in which what was written was poorly illustrated by someone else's photograph. This happened to me for the first time when I wrote a profile on writer William Gibson. The art director, not Chris Dahl, but his predecessor, Rick Staehling told me, “Because you as a photographer have written this essay on Gibson I think it would be neat to assign the photograph to someone else.” In theory the idea may have been a good one. In fact it was a terrible idea. The resulting photograph was so bad that I never did put my piece in any of the portfolios that I had at the time. The photographer had made the motions and never did find out who his subject was or what his subject did.
Once I began to write more I began to understand that preoccupation of writers in having their work edited. I remember telling Les Wiseman to mention some quirk about a situation involving a rock musician he had interviewed and I had photographed. His answer was always the same, “I’ll try but I cannot promise as I don’t know in which direction my piece is going.” It was then that I began to understand that you write without taking into consideration how what you write will be illustrated. The illustration is most secondary in one’s preoccupation. This knowledge helped humble me a tad when I realized that the photographer was not as important as most photographers
think they are.
The idea then is that if one takes pictures but also writes, the second ability will take precedence over the first one. Yet to this day it rankles me when someone will call me (not so frequent) or write to me (a bit more frequent) to say, “I liked that piece you wrote,” or “That was a fine blog you wrote the other day.”
It rankles me that nobody seems to appreciate (as if they took them for granted) that many of the pictures that illustrate my blogs are really good. And (subjectively) I must add that in the age of Flickr and pristine Photoshopped images, in this age of diffuse glow which renders nasty skin pores invisible, my pictures look even better.