Is it any good?

Every photographer has asked themselves this question countless times.

I know I have and do. I am even even thinking "is this any good?" as I look at this picture I am hanging this blog post off (see below).

But what does that mean? Good?

Are you asking if someone likes it? Do people who “like” a photo you post on social media think it is “good”?

Can we start with the assumption that the image is correctly exposed and in focus? Its not impossible to take a badly exposed photo that is not in focus with all the technological aids cameras provide today, but it is pretty hard.

I often turn to my wife or kids when editing down a shoot and I cannot decide between two images. It usually turns out to be different to the one I like. But the outside input helps to crystallize my own feelings.

When I send the images to the editor they edit down further and they will also inevitably not choose my favourite pictures.

That is normal. Each person is unique and has different tastes and opinions. 

There are so many factors that lead up to you pointing your camera at something and clicking the shutter.

And each factor and your reaction to it is totally personal to you. So there is so much baggage when it comes to that picture or set of pictures.

The Villagers

Below is some of my context and the story behind this particular picture.

Where - North West Frontier Province (since renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Pakistan.

GPS - got it somewhere, need to dig that up.

When - late December, 2005 Who- Villagers waiting for supplies to be delivered. Why - The October 8, 2005, Kashmir quake rocked this region and cut off many remote mountain villages. 

As winter approached it became clear that the Pakistani government and aid agencies were in a race against time. The winters in the Hindu Kush are harsh and if aid did not reach the people in the high villages there could be a secondary humanitarian crisis.

The only way into many of these areas was by helicopter and the UN had recruited a group of mountaineers known as the "quake jumpers". They were tasked to work in small teams and access areas in the mountains aid workers had not yet reached.

So I got my stuff (see my goto camera below) together, got my visa and jumped on a PIA flight to Islamabad. I settled into my accommodation and reached out to my contact at the WFP. With his help I managed to secure a place on a helicopter.

camera, black, twin lens reflex, film, analog, photography
Shanghai Seagull Twin Lens Reflex - My goto camera for this trip. Relatively compact, simple and robust enough.

It was on one of the aid drops at small hilltop village that I saw this group of men and took this picture.

So, is it any good?

Technically the light is not great for a portrait - it is a bit too side on for my liking. The young man on the right is in the shadow of the taller man to the left.

Why didn’t I move them around? They were standing in a group watching the helicopter being unloaded. I didn’t want to get involved and move them around and break up the group dynamic.

The background also worked the way it was. Despite it being sunny with blue skies it was pretty cold with a chill wind blowing and that is snow on the ground behind them.

You can also see that I have managed to cut the toes off the the older man on the left of the image.

Despite the technical faults I think it is a good image. It works for me because it shows the different personalities of the men in the picture. It shows their pride, strength and resilience.

It also shows a little vulnerability. There is evidence of hardship to come with the early snow on the ground. Yet the boy is wearing open toed sandals.

I am the first to admit that the memories I have of these events are intertwined and inseparable from my feelings about this image.

What do you think?

Is it any good?