I never have a good answer to what a photograph is. As languages go, it’s plagued by the awkwardness of its own independence. I used to think that each photograph I took would be like a little freeze-dried moment. On review it would reconstitute and regain its fleshiness and context. But I squint along with everyone else. Awkward moments are so agonizingly relivable- why not inspired moments?
Lack of evidence notwithstanding, I don’t take snapshots. I’ll observe and trifle with a scene like the above for 40 minutes or so before I reach for a film holder or move on entirely. It occurs to me that this isn’t exploring the idea so much as riding out the inertia of it. Given enough time the photo becomes as emotionally detached as a statement read by the same cop I confessed it to. I used to try to smother this dryness with rich tones and soft focus like onions and cheese but increasingly such visual lipids just make me sleepy.
Robert Frost said that a poem is never a put-up job, it can begin as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a loneliness. But it is never a thought to begin with- it’s at its best when it is a tantalizing vagueness. I wonder if holding a photo to that same standard is a cop out or a kindness.