Roger Hicks con­sid­ers…

‘Amer­i­can Fair’, 2015, by Pamela Lit­tky

Amateur Photographer - - Final Analysis -

Pamela Lit­tky is one of those pho­tog­ra­phers who makes you feel bad about your­self, but in a good way. Bad be­cause her lat­est book Amer­i­can Fair, like her pre­vi­ous books from Kehrer Ver­lag, makes you re­alise that you’ve never ac­com­plished any­thing sim­i­lar your­self (to those who have, I apol­o­gise). Good be­cause you know you could do the same, if only... And then you slip back into feel­ing bad again.

Her com­po­si­tions are de­cep­tively sim­ple. Yes, well, most of us can do that. Some­times. Can we do it often enough? She can. Most of us would need more prac­tice. Her theme is crys­tal clear; wide rang­ing; and com­pre­hen­sively re­alised. Again, yeah, well, most of us could do that... if only we could spare the time and ef­fort. And had the tal­ent. Do I be­lieve that Ms Lit­tky has ac­cess to greater reserves of time and ef­fort than many of us? No. But she knows how to han­dle the time and ef­fort she can spare. Tal­ent? Well, we all like to fool our­selves. But even if we aren’t fool­ing our­selves, the truth is that most of us just aren’t ac­tu­ally get­ting off our back­sides and do­ing it.

Be­sides, too much has come to­gether in this pic­ture to be at­trib­ut­able to the ‘in­fi­nite mon­keys’ sce­nario. It isn’t just a ques­tion of tak­ing very large num­bers of pic­tures and then se­lect­ing the good ones. Life isn’t long enough. You need a num­ber of rea­son­ably good pic­tures to start with, and you don’t want too many of them. Other­wise, you’ll spend too long sort­ing through the dross. Even if you have lots of fairly good pic­tures, you need to be able to select the out­stand­ing ones. This is as much a skill as shoot­ing good ones to be­gin with, never mind re­ally good ones.

So what has to come to­gether in or­der to achieve this? The light­ing, for a start. Fill flash? Al­most cer­tainly. But so un­ob­tru­sive that it’s hard to pin down even when you start look­ing. The rest of the light? Su­perb. Not too early: not too late (look at the sky). The lights on the round­about lit. The com­po­si­tion? Just enough of both the trailer (car­a­van) and the round­about: not too much or too lit­tle of ei­ther. The man? The sag­ging camo shirt; the well-worn (and none too clean) jeans with the turned-up cuffs; the moc­casins; the po­si­tion of the hands; the glasses; the fa­cial ex­pres­sion: you could not ask for more.

Yes, yes. It’s sim­ply a ques­tion of be­ing in the right place at the right time. And be­ing there often enough, all across the United States, to fill a book that sums up the sub­ject.

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