don’t say cheese

Here’s a question that’s been bugging me for years:

A camera can capture moments that are measured in hundredths if not thousandths of a second. So why does so much studio photography look like it’s been posed to display all the energy and vitality of the Mona Lisa? Or a bowl of fruit in a still life in oils?

I do get some of it, of course. The poses are part of an artistic (Western) tradition that goes back over five hundred years and not only do they work but they’re kind of hard to break from. I mean, not without pulling out your mad PhotoShop skills to turn a photo into something truly surreal, which isn’t to my taste. Lacking those skills, I do what I can to break from the mold as best I can, but it’s not long before I’m back to “leaning on couch” or whatever. And, yeah, damn me if they’re not good pictures too.

I guess I’ve gotten spoiled shooting moments. Between the fire spinners, my time in burlesque and working in street photography, I live for that hundredth of a second. The sense that an image captures the energy of a continuum: the poi will be caught, the feather fan will swoop, the conversation at the bar will continue into the night but this moment… this moment was caught.

And studio photography feels so posed and composed, the images lack that sense of continuity. This woman is leaning on a wall because she is leaning on the wall. The smile, the fence, the chair, the whatever is not a moment to me. There’s not much emotion either, just… model. It wasn’t caught, it was prepared. It just is.

Say cheese.

I think I’m going to have to try harder. Some of that is going to be just remembering this idea, some of it will be being more proactive.

And the rest… I’ll make up as I go.

Jesse Belle-Jones


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