It is too often assumed that the full power of a work can only be attained in relation to the text which accompanies it, as if the greater the word count, the weightier the work. In my opinion, a beautiful image is one which is self-contained, one which gently resists the natural inclination to search for a meaning. That is not to say an image without deeper context, simply one which makes further explanation seem unnecessary.
Years of painting and graphic design have let me experience image making in many different guises, through many different processes: the intellectual and physical rigors of gradually building up a canvas, the stringent homogenizing guidelines of corporate marketing, the trickery of masquerading pixels, airbrushes, and filters. These are images engineered to stand out, to convince, to glorify. I love painting and I love design, but a life of these pursuits has fostered in me a deep appreciation of a different kind of image altogether: the unintentional image. Textures, colors, and shapes composed not by theory and forethought, but by wind, erosion, tides, gravity, and chance.
These unintentional compositions do not clamor for our attention because they are everywhere. They can be found on the curbs and walls of any city street, at the edge of any lake, in the dirt of any park, or in the piles of any dump. They have no desire to stand the tests of time, as every deliberately crafted image does, because they are the tests of time. They are single moments in the endless reorganization of our environment. They are no sooner formed than they are reshaped, covered over, blown away, and erased.
As an image maker all the beauty I strive for in other mediums is offered up to me freely as a photographer: the most complex and sophisticated compositions, the most nuanced or unexpected color relationships, the most incredible textures and surfaces. As a rule I do not set up shots. I do not light shots. I do not use filters or digitally alter images. I do not shoot a subject multiple times. It would somehow defeat the purpose. I need only to see. Whereas a painting or design is usually the creation of an image out of nothing, snapshots are an opposite means of achieving a similar goal. Rather than creating out of nothing, I am erasing all but the smallest portion of what already exists. In effect I am obliterating the world, leaving only that thing which caught my eye, in order to frame it.
The act of finding beauty in unexpected places, in transitory, ignored, and simple things, is a great pleasure. For me a beautiful image, in and of itself, is reward enough.