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38.2 - Rewards

Pleasures, Not Rewards

Most often, a reward is thought to occur at the end of work, and it's deserved.

For most photographers, the greatest reward is during photography, during our way-of-working.

So, I switched from rewards to pleasures.

But, pleasures, in this culture imbued with Calvinism, can carry some negative connotations.

Here are some of the pleasures that can fuel your way-of-working.

Recognition from Others

I learned a great lesson from Douglas McGregor's Human Side of Enterprise.

If you recognize people for what they do well, they'll do more of it, and do it even better.

Recognition of what is working is a far better motivator than is the pointing out of what's not working.

But, if you're not taking a class, where's the possibility for recognition of your efforts?

Look for camera clubs and Meetupss.

That Feeling of Accomplishment

Henri Cartier-Bresson wrote:

Sometimes it happens that you stall, delay, wait for something to happen.

Sometimes you have the feeling that here are all the makings of a picture—except for just one thing that seems to be missing.

But what one thing?

Perhaps someone suddenly walks into your range of view.

You follow his progress through the view-finder.

You wait and wait, and then finally you press the button—and you depart with the feeling (though you don't know why) that you've really got something.1

Freeze Time

When ones house is on fire—and everyone and every living thing is safe—they say people often grab their photo albums before anything else.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote to a friend about how she valued a photograph.

It is not only the likeness that is valuable in these cases but the idea and feeling of proximity which are present there ... the fact that the very shadow of a certain person which fell there was recorded there forever.

I think that this truly hallows the portrait and I think it no exaggeration to say something with which my brother disagrees so passionately ... that I would rather keep a memory of the one I dearly loved than to have the most noble work an artist has ever made.2

• Record a chronicle, diary, or other narratives and sequences

• See/experience the world/people in a unique/better perspective

• Be able to use multiple talents, such as science, art, social, marketing, and so forth

• Have more tangible accomplishments, photographs, than from one's other endeavors

• Social reasons, such as sharing photographs with others

• Expression, for all, and a creative outlet for those who are largely involved in non-creative pursuits

Duane Michals said:

The keyword is having something to express. When you look at my photographs you are looking into my mind.3

• Feels good, especially the aha experience of connecting with a person, feeling, idea, memory, getting the picture before it disappeared, and transformation.

• Photography is about transforming the world by selecting a portion of it, at a certain time, and putting it onto a two-dimensional surface, that can be held, contemplated, shared, and tipped into an album or hung on a wall.

Edward Weston wrote in his journal:

April 24.

To see The Thing Itself is essential: the quintessence revealed direct without the fog of impressionism—the casual noting of a superficial phase, or transitory mood.

This then: to photograph a rock, have it look like a rock, but be more than a rock.

April 26.

I want the greater mystery of things revealed more  clearly than the eye can see, at least more than a layman—the causal observer notes.4

In a response to a question about the roles of accident and intention in photography, Walker Evans responded:

It's all done instinctively, as far as I can see, not consciously.

But after having made it instinctively, unless I feel that the product is a transcendence of the thing, of the moment in reality, then I haven't done anything, and I throw it away.5

Minor White wrote about his making of equivalents, photographs that represent emotions that are not intrinsically part of the object photographed:

... I learned to make chance moments occur by looking at anything until I see what else it is.

Such looking leads below surfaces, so far below, indeed, that once I claimed "creative photography hangs on the faith that outsides reveal insides."

Then I meant that photographed surfaces must reveal the essences of objects, places, persons and situations.

Since then I know the opposite also to be true: photographs of rocks, water, hands, peeling paint or weathered fences consent to mirror my own inner occasions.6

White was following Alfred Stieglitz, who in the early 1920s challenged himself to make photographs of clouds that would create music in viewer:

My cloud photographs are equivalents of my most profound life experience, my basic philosophy of life.7

Stieglitz completed a series of clouds, Songs of the Skies, and one of trees, Songs of Trees.

There are many other rewards, more idiosyncratic to the individual.

Here are two in detail.

1 Cartier-Bresson, H. (1952). The decisive moment (Images à la sauvette). New York: Simon & Schuster.

2 Miller, B. (Ed.). (1954). Elisabeth Barrett to Miss Mitfordi. New Haven: Yale University Press.

3 Smith, R. (2003, December). Duane Michals: Getting to the heart of a wry eye. Shutterbug Magazine,

4 Newhall, N. (Ed.). (2 vol., 1961–66). The daybooks of Edward Weston. Rochester, NY: George Eastman House. Reprinted in Goldberg, V. (1981). Photography in print: Essays from 1816 to present. New York: Simon and Schuster.

5 Katz, L. (1971, March-April). An interview with Walker Evans. Art in America. Reprinted in Goldberg, V. (1981). Photography in print: Essays from 1816 to present. New York: Simon and Schuster.

6 White, M. (1959, August). Statement from the journal, Memorable Fancies. Camera, 38(8). Reprinted in Goldberg, V. (1981). Photography in print: Essays from 1816 to present. New York: Simon and Schuster.

7 Norman, D. (1960). Alfred Stieglitz: An American seer. New York: Aperture. Reprinted in Goldberg, V. (1981). Photography in print: Essays from 1816 to present. New York: Simon and Schuster.