Diane Wehr Street Photography

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A Street Photography Blog

Why Do We Have Photography Orphans?

I guess you had to be there to appreciate this Ecuadorian rose worker.


Have you noticed that sometimes, maybe even often times, your favorite pictures in your personal portfolio are not at all the pictures your viewers like best? I have been pondering how my Photography Orphans, as I like to call them, came to be orphans and what I can do to rescue them. Warning! After you see my collection of orphans, you might truly doubt my aesthetic as a photographer.

We might as well start with one of the most famous photography quotes of all time by Garry Winogrand, “Photographers mistake the emotion they feel while taking the photo as a judgment that the photograph is good.” Well, isn’t that the truth? If I look no further for an explanation of why I so strongly favor certain of my orphans, I have found the answer.  Witness this extreme example.

What I see is a great head-shot of a sheep. I love pictures of animals more than your ordinary person. I see some great lines. Once again, I probably like lines more than most. I see that, not only my primary subject, but my secondary subject are both framed. I like the monochromatic color scheme, except for a nice touch of color in the secondary subject. You see those things, too, but perhaps they are not qualities that are as important to you as to me. Here is what I feel that you cannot possibly feel. When I took this picture, I was on an emotional high. By the luck of the photography gods I got to visit a rural wholesale market in the Andes of Ecuador that is only open on Thursdays. I did not know that this market existed. I did not imagine that there was a place so un-Westernized in Ecuador. I had no idea a culture could be so dazzling. I literally did not know what I did not know and my brain inexplicably connected this particular picture to my revelation that all of these things existed. I do truly love this picture but, I can tell you, I am alone not just loving it, but even liking it.

The example above is not my favorite orphan, but I don’t hate it. I like the touch of red that connects with the red of her lipstick. I like the strong vertical lines. There is a nice leading line, that goes left to right after I flipped it. I am banking on the fact that you will not notice the wording on the blue signs is backward. A little smoke never hurts. But what really draws me to this picture is the understanding that in New York City people sit on stoops. In Southern Italy and Sicily, people stand in doorways. No one else, as best as I can determine, likes this picture.

Here is another thing that I once read that helps me understand where Photography Orphans come from. I wish I could remember where I read it, but I cannot. The more we look at a picture, the better we like it. That makes complete sense to me. Perhaps it is the final blow to our good judgment about the quality of one of our own pictures, or all of them, for that matter.

This was taken from the Devil’s Nose Train in Ecuador. I was thrilled when a human appeared on the lower tracks. This kind of picture falls into the type of street photography called geometric street photography. The human part of the picture is not so important. Sometimes they just assist with scale. I thought I nailed it, but my viewer’s did not agree.

The final reason that I can imagine why we may have Photography Orphans is that in this digital world, perhaps we take too many pictures. As my wise friend, Carl Lum, observed in a comment on another blog, “Maybe people need to treat their digicams more like film cameras of old, where you have 24 exposures per roll, and you must make each shot count. While it's true that memory is cheap and you can snap forever, you soon fall into "sorter's fatigue" reviewing the images and you lose all sight of what's good and what should be tossed.”

I am trying to address sorter’s fatigue by going through the delete process of pictures more than one time. But then that means I am looking at them a lot. I find that I like what is left better and better each time. It is kind of a circular problem.

 Next week’s blog is about how you can save Photography Orphans. If any of you have a street photography orphan you are willing to share in the blog, message me on Instagram or Facebook.


 Think about whether you have a Photography Orphan. What is it that makes it so special to you?