So, good Photography begins with seeing beyond the literal; seeing that involves the “mind’s eye,” guided by emotions. But here is a conundrum: emotions can overwhelm our critical faculties. “Love is Blind” is an observation confirmed by both poetry and science. An over-reliance on emotions can blunt our ability to select which of our own images to publish and which to discard. Having started the image-making process with seeing the emotion in a scene, effective self-critique then requires that we sever our personal emotional attachment to the images we have created. We must ‘see’ with our emotions but not let our emotions blind us.

This is true as much in the more mundane everyday transactions as it is in art appreciation. Recently I was in the market for a travel trailer; I wanted a used one, to minimize depreciation. After examining in person several units advertised to be ‘in excellent condition’ a pattern began to emerge. It appears the owners/sellers were not seeing the same things I was seeing. In their minds their trailers were colored with many happy memories of camping out in magnificent scenery, cozy and protected against the elements, even enjoying some of the comforts of home. I, on the other hand, could see the potential, yes, but not having an emotional attachment I could not overlook things like dents and rust and grime. It took a lot longer than I’d expected to find a trailer whose owner defined the words “excellent condition” mostly like I did. It turns out he had only owned the trailer for a few months – not enough time to develop a strong emotional attachment.

Likewise with photography. After all the time and effort we invest in placing ourselves in the right place, at the right time, after seeing a scene that moves us, then pointing a camera & lens, after composing and exposing, then spending …perhaps hours(?) in processing, we typically end up with a pretty good representation of what we saw. “Good’ that is, in terms of its effectiveness in re-creating in our hearts and minds the emotions that triggered the process in the first place. And that works largely because we were there and saw the original, so our memories, our emotional attachment to the image, make us minimize any flaws in the photograph. We feel it works fine as a memory aid. And it does. But will this image be effective in communicating the same emotions in other people’s hearts and minds? The answer depends a lot on each viewer’s life experiences, of course. Have they also been there, and seen something like that in person? Does e.g. a beach scene conjure up happy memories? If so then minor flaws in the photograph could be overlooked… Or does it stir up Melancholy? Sadness? Perhaps even tragic memories? Indifference? Before the viewer can even get to that point, there must be a clear path for his or her mind’s eye to follow. Our images must communicate a clear message, unimpeded by… dents and rust and grime… or their photographic equivalents: bad light, awkward composition, wrong exposure. We must not let our emotional attachment blind us to such things.

Controlled, deliberate, mature detachment can help us see with a critical eye, yet without being overly critical. …Easier said than done, I know… And frankly, even after many years of practice, emotional detachment is still the most difficult part of my own Image Quest. Thankfully I have been blessed with a circle of trusted friends and family who do not hesitate to let me know their true feelings about my images, good, bad or indifferent. All of you are welcome to join by using the “contact us” link for some private feedback along these lines, too. Do you like or dislike a particular image? All honest opinions, especially the strong ones, are greatly appreciated, as they help me refine my ‘filter’ of emotional detachment.