It’s virtually impossible for me to view one of my own images without bringing along a lot of baggage. By baggage, I mean the fact that I was there when the image was captured, I was there for all of the editing of the image, I was there for the first test print of the image and any and all thereafter – in short, that by the time the image is done, it’s spent a lot of time being on my mind.
As a result, at that point it really has no mysteries left for me. One of the joys of seeing the work of other photographers is that I come to it completely fresh. As a general rule, I don’t really know, with any precision or specificity, where they made their image, nor what they did to edit the capture, nor how many evolutions a print went through before it was finished. Such images essentially are all mystery me. I get the impact of seeing it as the artist intended, without being burdened by the backstory.
By way of contrast, when I look at my own images, they’re all backstory to me. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since creating an image comes with a set of rewards and satisfactions all their own. But the mystery associated with seeing an image fresh and new for the first time, without knowing the full backstory of its making and creation, is not one of them.
So I was surprised recently when I went back to look at some of my older images that I hadn’t looked at in a while. Briefly, very briefly upon first viewing, I would get the full impact of the image because I hadn’t thought about it in a while and the image’s backstory would take a minute to return to me. For that brief interval, it was like I was a stranger to my own work, able for just a moment to experience the image like I imagine someone else might.
It was pretty cool.