© 2001 J. Kevin Dunn. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the photographer
It has often been observed that artmaking has the important role in life in that it is one activity in which we are free to pursue perfection regardless of costs. We all spend inordinate amounts of money — and time — in our photographic endeavors. We tweak and fuss, fret and sweat bullets over the next smidgen of improvement we might be able to squeeze into our prints. Artmaking is a competition with perfection in which we will always come up short but knowing so does not deter us. We plod on.
Perfection, however, comes in many scales. There was a time in my life when I would have rejected this image — as a viewer or as a maker — because of that flare in the upper left corner. But the perfection in this image is not in the technical accomplishment, but rather in the moment. As an image in the portfolio titled My Life as a Dog, each of the images are photographs of dogs, not surprisingly. So we flip the page and here are a bunch of sheep. A "Where's Waldo" mentality kicks in and we start visually searching. There he is — and the perfection of the moment is revealed. We not only see the dog, but we see the dog's expression — a downtrodden look of canine humiliation. I was instantly reminded of one of my favorite lines of humor from long-forgotten comedian George Gobel who once asked, "Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?"
And the main sheep, stares at us so enthusiastically. We can see a sense of sheep pride in that face, which makes the dog's sideways glance seem even more despondent. Sure, there is flare in the corner, and the sky is overexposed, and the print might be a little contrasty, but all of that is of secondary importance to the moment. When we are too focused on photography, we run the risk of missing life and it is always in life where we find the best that photography has to offer.
J. Kevin Dunn is featured in this LensWork Alumni Spotlight.