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The Real Deal by Joe McNally

Obregon Obregon

Is from: Southold, US
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Obregon Moderator Donor Ribbon. Awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level of skill in several areas.  Charter Member
Sun 14-Nov-21 04:50 AM
The Real Deal: Field Notes from the Life of a Working Photographer by Joe McNally

I’ve said this before. Reading a book by Joe McNally is like sitting in a bar, schmoozing with a friend. It could never pass for the polite conversation at say, a White House reception, but it’s good fun.

This book is part memoir, part paean to the benefits of modern photography equipment, and part general instruction about the way to approach photography (and perhaps even life.) Reading the book is like meeting an old friend after many years; one who one used to be closely connected to; and with whom one can instantly reconnect. (It’s been almost ten years since I last read one of his books.) The book is really a series of essays, and can be picked up and put down easily after each essay.

The memoir part tells a bit about growing up, attending school, and finding his place in the world of photography. The paeans are songs in praise of using modern cameras with so many automatic features like focus, exposure and white balance. I’m not suggesting that he says just shoot on auto-most of these times the auto features just provide a starting point. But what they do is allow the photographer to concentrate on the content of his picture, in a way we never could when we had to worry about setting everything by hand. The general instruction deals with being imaginative, planning the shoot, and even, for those who seek to make a living in photography, finding work.

His exposition of the life of a professional photographer left me feeling just a little sorry for Joe and glad I never wanted to earn a living as a photographer. It must be horrible, always searching for new work, and always sure that you will somehow screw up the job. Even though I’ve made a few bucks from some of my photography, there was always pleasure in taking pictures. Even when skunked, even when I traveled far and returned with nothing, I was happy because I enjoyed the process, and knew that you can’t get a winner every time.

Like the friend in a bar, Joe doesn’t mind telling stories at his own expense. I smiled at his description of getting a cow into a Romanian kitchen for a photograph.

I took particular pleasure in reading the closing chapters of the book, where he points out that even the best of us photographers are unlikely to capture what he calls iconic photographs. Something like Joe, I have a photograph that I took of my two-year old granddaughter that I will always prize, even if no one else cares At the same time, I’ve probably clicked the shutter a million times, but really have only four or five photographs that I really think have some lasting value. I think Joe is telling us, enjoy the process.