Saturday, January 06, 2007

Do we run pretty pictures?

Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

It rained yesterday, and we needed something for the Region page. So, I went tromping out to get some weather features and test a new camera rain pouch (it's a Pelican collapsible rain pouch and soft-sided blimp - two thumbs up). I checked the high-water points around town, but nothing was flooding yet (the rivers and bayous should crest later today).

When I went downtown, the only person wandering around in the rain was a scary-looking dude with a black hat, leather jacket and some large, black thing attached to his hand. Hmmm, maybe this could explain the lack of pedestrians wherever I went.

Nonetheless, I decided to make some "pretty pictures." It was cool to simply make nice images for the sake of aesthetics. No story, just fluffy little views around town.

I went to turn them out before going to a school bond committee function. Finally, the question popped into my head. I asked Jennifer, "Do we run pretty pictures?" It hadn't come up before. I got an immediate (and expected) smarty-pants answer, but then she said she thought we did. Neither of us really knew for certain.

So, I asked Pete. He said we do. Whew. So, I put them in the system, and they didn't run because they weren't needed.

Now, I'm perplexed by the same question. Do we run pretty pictures? I'm still not certain.

I've always found some news angle for cool images. If I shoot a butterfly, we could call an entomologist and verify the genus and species and learn enough about migration patterns to make a filler story and the entomologist gets a scrapbook clip (if bugs don't eat it).

Y'all get the point. Almost anything can be a news story if we ask the right questions.

However, what happens when we want to enjoy the act of arranging colors and patterns into a pleasing composition? The image has no people, no verb, no reason whatsoever other than aesthetics.

At the core of this question is the basic difference between photographers and photojournalists. I made some images, but they're basically meaningless because they answer no legitimate question. They are nouns. IMO pretty nouns, but they aren't PJ work other than the fact I'm a PJ and I was "working" (always debatable). I even knew this while I made them. I was merely burning pixels until someone walked by with a colorful umbrella (which didn't happen).

So, what good are these images other than blog filler? I honestly don't know. Feel free to debate it in the comments section or your blogs. I deliberately posted the image without a cutline to see if it bothered anyone else.

Enough for now,


Bryon Houlgrave said...

The only thing that remotely bothers me is that I don't know what kind of flowers they are, why they're blooming in January (is that normal for Texas??) and if it was around town or at a public garden.

I've had to publish several "pretty pictures" in the couple years I've been shooting, and for me it's always been a two-sided affair. On one hand, it's an aesthetic treat for the brain ("oooh, look at the pretty colors"), but on the other hand there's no real substance, and I sometimes feel like I just wasted a lot of time.

Do they run? I think there's a place for them, but on a minimal scale. As Carmen told me once, "people like to see pretty pictures."

On this one, I'd ideally like to see maybe a bug on the flowers (if possible), or maybe a close-up on a drop of rain.

Mark M. Hancock said...

It's the Gulf Coast. We sweat/flowers bloom in January. ;-)
We had about six hours of freezing weather this year, so the bugs are sleeping.
I think my point is what happens to images if we're NOT telling a story?
The raindrop or a bug creates a verb: "A drop of rain balances..." or "A bug walks..."
What do we do with aesthetic nouns? It's not a problem to put them on the Web because we're accustomed to pretty pix on the Web. But, where specifically would they run in print?

Marie said...

My community newspaper does run pretty photos-landscapes-birds-bugs--which is as popular with our readers as it is with the judges at the NC Press Association. From our reader's perspective, the pretty photos verify the beautiful place in which they live and see every day. Fact is, Boone, North Carolina and the surrounding counties just don't have one heck of alot of spot news stories so counting on something bad or tragic to happen to put in the paper is not wise...believe me, we try to find the stories...Folks around here take the larger daily newspaper for the really statewide news outside our area and count on their beloved community paper to see pretty photos, read a blow-by-blow run down of the city council meeting, and to see who is getting married soon.
Are pretty photos substantial? Dude, I don't have a clue, that sounds like an existential question to me...

Mark M. Hancock said...

How does your paper run them? Are they scattered througout the paper? Is there a special hole for one each day? (that would suck the fun out of it)