The Digital Journalist
Your Next Step Should Be A Fuzzy One
November 2003

by James Colburn

Photography has been around for more than 150 years now and during all that time it's progressed steadily. Sometime the progress comes in small increments (Tri-X's grain getting finer and finer) and sometimes it comes in great leaps (the introduction of Kodachrome in the 30's.)

Cameras started off big and bulky and have steadily gotten smaller and easier to use. Bellows and groundglass screens have given way to mirrors and pentaprisms. Lenses have traveled the road from small aperture, fixed focal length brass-bound behemoths to small zooms that take in everything from wide scenes to telephoto close-ups.

Exposure meters used to be selenium-celled, delicate works of art and now they're built into just about every camera and automatically set the camera for the perfect exposure. It's gotten so that it's pretty darn hard to take a bad picture. You have to work at it.

And so I shall.

After years of trying to get my photographs in focus I feel a rebellious need to make them fuzzy. Since any moron with a happy snap can now take a picture that's properly exposed and in focus it's now up to those of us that care about our art to throw that "in focus" puppy out the 14th floor window and show the world that we ARE in control of our craft.

I feel that this is a trend with a precedent. For the longest time one of the differences between a professional photographer and a beginner was that the professional knew about things like color temperature and would carefully choose the right kind of color film in order to make to finished picture appear "as to the eye." But for the last decade (at least) there's been a trend towards just letting that darn tungsten light take over and magazines the world over publish these very, very "orange" double-pages spreads. One portraitist in particular has made a career out of producing shots of famous people that seem to be lit with banks of flourecent lights. These photos contain greens and cyans that should not exist in nature. But there are editors out there that love 'em so who are we to judge?

So now all bets, I feel, are off and it's time for out-of-focus pictures. Not just "Oh damn, the switch on the lens was set to MF instead of AF" mistakes, either. I mean we should start taking our pictures out-of-focus ON PURPOSE.

This will show everyone that we know exactly what we're doing BUT WE CHOOSE TO IGNORE OUR OWN TRAINING. We shall not be dictated to. We shall arise free every morning, pick up our camera bags and go out into the world secure in the knowledge that we will be making the world a slightly fuzzier place. If some brave soul chooses to combine it with that "orange" look we will truly be in an age of "warm and fuzzy" photography and that can only be good for all.

What if you have some photographs from days gone by that you misguidedly made IN focus? What can you do to jump on the band wagon and see that this new paradigm progresses?

Two words folks. Gaussian Blur...

© James Colburn
Contributing Writer