Balanced Rock, Page, Ariz.
Balanced Rock, Page, Arizona

Photographed: Nov. 1995
Format: 4x5
Film: TRI-X
Development: N

    People who don't use a lot of words to say something will enjoy this straight forward image. I think the rest of us who include more detail in our speech, sometimes to ad nauseum, will find it less interesting. I say this because I think there's a correlation in how people talk and how they see.

    Though this photo was captured on film in 1995, I can only now start to understand it four years later. The photo was made on what had to be one of the best workshops available for finding and creating images - Bruce Barnbaum's Arizona-Utah View Camera Workshop: The Slit Canyons. Instructors were Bruce, Stu Levy, Don Kirby and, my favorite, Jay Dusard due to his direct approach and humor. (More information about Bruce's workshops is available at 360-691-4105. Besides the usual workshop review of portfolios, Bruce takes you to Antelope Canyon, Buckskin Gulch and Waterholes Canyon.)

    Bruce took the group down a power line road early in the workshop. Everyone split up in every compass direction. I'd taken an image of what I'd call a balancing rock about a year earlier. I thought then that I'd never see another in my life time. (I've since found them all over the place).

    So you can imagine my surprise and excitement when, after walking only a few minutes, I came across this rock formation next to a rough canyon wall.

    After walking around the massive object, I decided to set up so that a dark chunk out of the canyon wall showed in the upper right. I felt it made a statement that the rock came off the wall to the canyon floor only to find itself, through erosion, balanced on a tall spire.

    Bruce commended myself and several others for finding the rock. (I think he'd scouted the area before and knew it was there). Bruce, who is the master of movement and simple gracefulness in his images, suggested that I move about a foot to my right, getting rid of the dark object from the background. He said by moving I'd put the rock against a lighter, less distracting background.

    I put on film both my version and Bruce's suggested version of the rock. Needless to say, Bruce's version is the only one I have printed.

    But why? Really, why?

    I've been looking at my past images as I've been reading books purchased at auctions (a great way to find vintage photo books). What I found, in large part, were those who carefully choose their words in talking about their work also created easy to understand images. Photos that hit you over the head with their direct approach.

    People who used flowery language, or laced their descriptions with large words or cosmic thoughts, created images with many levels of understanding in them, but were perhaps too "out there" for many people to understand.

    The theme of "Order out of Chaos" recently was brought home in several ways. First, I showed my small portfolio of images to a couple people who I know are direct, get-it-done-now types of people. They both liked this rock out of 30 some prints. Then I showed images by Paul Caponigro and Wynn Bullock to my wife, an editor on a newspaper. She can not afford to waste words. "Brevity is the soul of wit" is her favorite saying. As she's done in the past with my photos, she looked at the masters' work and said, "Doesn't do anything for me."

    She also liked this rock.

    These and other people's reactions caused me to consider what I wanted to accomplish in my work. By looking at past contact (proof) sheets, I often found I'd photographed busy images that included many possible themes. I liked them when I took them because I felt people could come away with different meanings. But this insight told me that maybe I should concentrate on just the theme I wanted to get across, and not worry about trying to please everyone.

    As to whether I can accomplish that, only time and practice will tell.

Copyright © 2000 by Al Camp. All Rights Reserved.
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