Servant by Choice

Who runs what?

Even an imperfect thought experiment can be a catalyst for growth. Thinking about things from a different perspective can help identify new paradigms, and through them, we discover fresh insights. Take, for example, this tidbit from the equine world.

Equestrians ask: Is the person taking the horse out for a ride, or is the horse taking the person out for a ride? If the person is in charge, he or she determines the pace, route, and destination. If the horse is in charge, the person is a powerless passenger.

With some loss in translation, we might ask the same of an artist – and, in particular, the photographer. Is this image a progeny of the artist or of the process? We call it “vision” when the artist chooses the pace, route, and destination. If the work is exclusively the result of a process or algorithm, we may question the artist’s contribution.

My point is not to denigrate the role of chance or technique in a finished work. Henri Cartier-Bresson was remarkably “lucky” in this respect. I am advocating for artists to be clear-eyed, to know what they are doing, and to do it by choice.