The other day I was listening to an interview of a French film director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. You know him, the one who directed Amélie and Alien, to mention a few. He was asked which of his films he liked the best. His answer took me by surprise. “It depends on the day,” he said. “Sometimes when I look at my films, all I can see are flaws.” I didn’t see that coming! Here’s a famous film director whose films are clearly outstanding. And yet, how he feels about his works depends on the day.
Funnily enough, we have something in common, Jean-Pierre and I. There are times when I revisit a picture of mine I once thought was pretty awesome, and go, like, “What was I thinking…?” Yes, my skills have gotten better over time, but I’m talking about recent work. So there is no universal “this-picture-is-really-awesome” label that you can give your work, no matter how pleased you are with the result. It depends on the day.
I think it boils down to the fact that when you look at an image, you see it through your mind’s eye which is ever changing. Depending on your mood, you see things differently.
This is no surprise to us, really. We all know how everything looks rosy when you’re in love. Or the opposite when you’ve just lost your job. Okay, bad images don’t turn into great images, no matter how head over heels you are. I’m talking about solid, good images either speaking to you or not.
Films and images are stories by which we communicate. We don’t just passively look at them. They make us feel something and how we feel determines how we receive the message. Remember Mona Lisa? The girl who either smiled or didn’t smile, depending on who’s looking at her and when?
This is the peculiar thing about my playing field as a photographer. You see, I have this over-the-top, highly scientific way of going through the images of a shoot. Out of, let’s say, hundred images, how do I determine which ones are good and which aren’t? Well, quite simply, the keepers are the ones that make me feel something. “That’s it?”, you say. Yes, that’s it. “But if you’re having a rough day and nothing seems to please the eye, how do you make the selection then?” Yeah, well… the best I can tell you is that then it gets hard. I don’t say it can’t be done, just that it’s hard. If at all possible, I’ll just leave the work for later and go look for my muse that got away.
But at least now I don’t feel so bad if one day my masterpiece doesn’t give me the exhilaration I used to get from it. At least I’m in good company, with my buddy Jean-Pierre.