5 stories about variations photography


ONE: THE END OF CHOOSING. Jessie, participating in various photography communities, observed after two years on Instagram that the edits of hers she liked were not those others liked.

Popular, for example, is cartoon processing:


She likes making colorful cartoons, but prefers

 FF3E4DBC-0492-494C-9FC3-690603174931All photo and art, Jessie Carveth, 2017.

They should all be out there.

SOMETHING FOR ALMOST EVERYONE. Jessie rejected the injunction: hone, choose one final edit. She makes and displays an array of edits–variations–that start with a single camera capture.

She wonders why an aim necessary in painting is improperly applied to photography. Painters slave happily over one painting until the one is finished.

Photography is completely different. It’s a machine production—easy. When combined with filtering software (on a machine), one capture can easily produce an unlimited amount of variations worth showing. arrowdownhand

Click to enlarge

Choose one? No.

Anyone who understands why there is one Mona Lisa understands the difference between painting and photography.


Painting is a combination of one last brushstroke, one canvas, one finished picture, and talent.

Photography is the opposite. Talent isn’t required, care is.

It’s promiscuous. The camera gets the capture, software takes it all over the place and creates any number of variations. A camera capture is never finished.

Click to enlarge

The greedy and promiscuous are not tormented over choice. They choose everything. They acquire and create, waste very little, and give a lot back.


It is exciting realizing that, because of technology and sharing platforms, everyone has become a photographer, very beautiful work with no training.

Maybe having large online communities to share pictures inspired the care now given to getting a capture (and filtering, for those who filter.)

There’s no difference in quality between (former) pros and everyone else.

Technology has made it difficult—very soon it will be ridiculous—to claim expertise based on things like film, degrees, renown, darkroom, proper art world language, unnecessary equipment.






Last laugh. Photographer Martin Parr thinks the amount of people taking pictures these days is absurb, funny. He did a “series” (translation: took pictures like everyone else) of people taking pictures.

Without a doubt it would be funny, if his photos were better than his subjects’ photos.

Jess has done enough research to tell you that photos taken by the people Parr makes fun of are as good as his. His ideas are interesting and funny,  but an idea isn’t a photograph.

Martin Parr takes great pictures. Everyone does. Photos are a machine production.

What does he and the artforum crowd have that others don’t? Pretention and vocabulary. “Photo series“. “Photo shoot“. “Focal point”.  BW.  Fujifilm.


The derision thrown at tourists taking pictures seems so weird to Jessie. Is vacation photography bad because people don’t call their trips a “photo shoot”?

Honestly, all you should do if you care is hashtag—present—differently. #photoshoot or #photoseries instead of #summervacation or #tourism. Photography is often dismissed without a look if the hashtags used aren’t in the photo world’s acceptable lingo.

If you care, don’t say #springbreak.

Say #conceptualphotography.



She had from the age of two a tortured relationship with drawing, painting, ink, charcoal, watercolor. Art requires either feeling pleased with one finished version that takes so long to get right; or tolerating a process taking that long but often ending up thrown away.

Jessie can’t tolerate the intractability of one.

For several years she turned away from making art.

At some point she got a Canon and went to Paris.

By the time Jessie got back, there were smartphones and sharing platforms, and an abundance of remarkable photography.

This revolution pisses off the about-to-be-extinct photography experts, “professional” photographers, and art world critics. As soon as people stopped being casual and careless when snapping pictures, we discovered it’s less about talent and more about paying attention.


Someone said to her, some time in the last three years of this restorative decade, “I like some of your edits more than others”. How dare he. Seriously.

Jessie decided: show them all. A photo is something to fool around with. It’s not a work of art, it’s the work of a machine and software. But photography is an art form.

Photography doesn’t involve special talent. Talent at what? Pressing a button? The best photography requires care, interest, and attention. 



It was completely different with painting. Painting was too important. It’s about one. The paintbrush and canvas, the thousands of drawings she did, imagining the picture was desperate for an exceptional completion, fast. Right about the time Jessie’s skill at color started to catch up to her ease at rendering, and people were asking for her work, she jumped ship.


NEW WORLD. Completely different from other art forms, photography and image edits are made with machines.

The process of snapping a picture, then turning it into many pictures feels luxurious. So many chances, options, the opposite of the drama of one.

A pastime with thrilling results.

Maybe camera engineers feel desperate, and software developers under pressure, but we who are handed the end product can create something riveting and beautiful, easily.

Every variation, edit, version, is homage to a machine, not the person who pressed a button. (Note: Subject choice, or series concept, is different. Some have a flair for devising interesting concepts, unusual subjects,)

Jessie uses a mirrorless camera when she’s in the mood to look fancy outside.



She doesn’t care if her photos are stolen, falsely claimed, altered. She can make another hundred variations.

(On the other hand, if anyone had gotten too close to her paintings, doodles, sketches, illustrations, ink drawings, there would have been murder. None of those can would.)

It became a project to disrupt the normative belief that a photograph demands what art does: aim for only one to finish and show.

It’s annoying, it makes no sense, that kids in photography programs are taught to adopt the persona of paint artist. Photography allows many compelling variations easily created from an initial capture. But students are still asked to choose one.

Why isn’t the difference between machines that capture beauty (easy: press a button) and painting (difficult, talent rare) acknowledged by now?

In this Instagram world, everyone with a camera and interest is a wonderful photographer (machine operator). This can’t be said about Cézanne and us.

Unfortunately, and though she does love Cartier-Bresson, Jessie is convinced that the gap between his photography and ours is negligible.

We can’t say the same about our paintings and Magritte’s. Don’t believe me, but there are  800,000,000 people who can do what Cindy Sherman does. How many can do Gauguin, Raphael, Vermeer?



Jessie’s photos are available for the taking, all over the internet. Grab them if you want, even though you could do it yourself easily, we all can.







3 thoughts on “5 stories about variations photography

  1. Some really interesting points of view there Jessie. There are some smart phones out there that have amazing cameras, and the technology is improving all of the time.

    There is some pretentiousness by famous and well known studio photographers, and who are not necessarily that good technically, and taking photos of people taking photos is so cliché.

    I make photos because it is creative, because it slows me down, because it makes me interact and have a deeper connection with the world, and that is art – at least in my mind.

    Can Ed Sheran paint like monet? Does the fact that he can’t stop his music from being art? Can a Broadway actor sculpt like Hepworth? Does the actors inability to sculpt stop their performance from being an art?

    Art – is art only painting? Or are there other mediums that are also part of the Arts? Yes all people can take photos, and can take technically good photos if they want to. It is accessible. But does that stop it from being art? Is there an artistic process in the process of creating a narrative in an individual or series of photos? Is photo developing art but with a different medium?

    I’m not saying that photo is or isn’t art per say. I’m certainly not saying that my photos are good, but there is an artistic process that I go through with my photography. That process takes me to a sacred place within so that I can connect to the sacred in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

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