Minority Report

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Things don’t move fast in Dumaguete. People here spend a lot of their time waiting- in stores, in hospitals, in government offices, at school. And it was at school that I found this girl, waiting for a class to begin. She was dangerously balanced on the wall above an open air shaft, listening to music.

I was there to shoot classroom pictures, students reading, asking questions; the teacher standing at the whiteboard: standard stuff. Walking down the hall, I saw the girl sitting there, and grabbed a passing shot of her without thinking about it much.

Photography is part of my job at Foundation University. I’m terrible at fashion pictures, or weddings, but fortunately that’s not required of me; I’m only need to be good at shooting and editing everyday situations, and that’s what I do.

Most of this work is routine, even dull. Classroom shots, conferences, speeches, formal dinners, awarding ceremonies. You need a reasonably good eye, and a certain amount of technical skill to do this well, but there’s no glamour in it, and no art. Most of the time, a photographer is just a skilled artisan following a trade, like a plumber or a carpenter.

But there are exceptions. Once in a while you can produce pictures of great beauty, pictures that reflect the world around you in a deep and powerful way. Sometimes this happens and you know it at the time you shoot it; more often it happens unconsciously, almost by accident; you don’t know it until you see it later.

A great idea, a great melody, a great photograph: these things come to those who receive them out of nowhere; they are like mysterious gifts from gods or angels. You can’t expect them and you don’t deserve them; you can only recognize them when they come and be thankful for them. Great work is not something you do; it’s something you accept. And you can’t take much credit for it.

Like this picture. I had even forgotten taking it! I was as surprised as anyone when I saw how good it was. When I saw what I had, of course I took some trouble to make it look as good as possible.

And now, when I say that it’s beautiful and mysterious- like life itself- I’m not bragging about me. I only took it on an impulse; and even the impulse wasn’t really mine.


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