Residual Artifacts


When I show people this picture I usually ask them what they think it’s of. Nine out of ten times they start to talk about roads, snowy roads, maybe a forest. I encourage them in this, I describe the rickety old helicopter I took the picture from, the incredible forests of eastern Siberia, the tenacity of the loggers, and so on. It’s wonderful how eager – and able – people are to rush into a story like that. Some people have even pointed out logging trucks, and marvelled at the altitude, and the scale.

Of course this is a very different kind of photograph. It was taken at an altitude of about 4 feet, and it’s of the cracked surface of a reservoir three minutes from my house. You can still see the forest, though, can’t you? Frankly, at this point, I see more forest than ice myself (see a couple more of these here).

On a day like that day, I’ll make hundreds of exposures. How many pictures do I take though? A semantic quibble, I suppose, but important to me. The way I approach photographing varies from “I must capture that image and show people” to “I don’t care if there’s a memory card in the camera”. On a day like the ice day, I tend toward the latter approach. The act of carrying a camera, looking through it, framing a piece of reality and making some decisions about it – that in and of itself is often the reason I go out shooting. If there happens to be a “picture” from the session, it’s almost an afterthought, a residual artifact of the real experience. I suppose the honest thing would be to just shoot without a memory card in the camera at all, sort of like shooting without film in the olden days.