Sharp pictures, perfect exposure, great camera techniques, who needs them? I remember listening to photographer David Burnett relating a conversation he had with a French photographer. The Frenchman said something like this: “You Americans and your gadgets. You adjust the shutter, the aperture, the focus, the exposure then finally take the picture but you have nothing. We French do not worry about the shutter or the aperture or the focus or the exposure. We see the picture, we take the picture. When we are finished we have something, poor exposure, out of focus and all. But the emotion and feeling is there.”
I never forgot that story and I often think of all the great pictures that might ordinarily be considered terrible. Capa’s picture of the D-Day invasion comes to mind. Ghost images, not quite in focus, poor composition, of course badly developed and exposure suspect. Yet, seeing the soldiers trudging up the beach under fire, crawling over the sand, looking for cover where there is no cover, is the one image that fully represents the terror of D-Day, the one image that stands above the thousands taken that day by some of the finest photographers of the time.
A camera should be used for a specific reason, a specific kind of photograph. In ancient lands I believe in the look of ancient cameras and techniques. Not that I go trudging through the jungles or deserts with a view camera and collodion wet plates. What I want is the ancient “feel” and emotion of the lands and the people.