All Traces of Yourself


I thought I was done editing the first section of the video, which cross-cut between two cameras and pulled audio directly from a lavalier mic pinned to the father’s chest as he officiated their ceremony. The second camera was a stationary tripod locked down half-way up the slope surrounded by the cathedral of redwoods. That spot had worked out well, the ceremony space fully in frame, no one sitting or standing in front of the camera.

Except for me. In nearly every shot, on the margins.

It was ultimately unavoidable given the terrain and the situation, and the vast majority of the time the footage I shot with the telephoto lens between my hands was the better footage. So when I cut to the other angle, I’d cropped around myself (and the photographer, who was in most of the shots too, in the lower corners, crouching down for a low angle), zooming in on the footage between 120-150%. It looked great compositionally, but the footage itself wasn’t all that sharp, and the handheld footage was just so crisp that each cut was like a difference of twenty years in quality. It was fine, but it wasn’t as good as it could have been.

So when I looked at it again just before moving on to the next section, I decided to just forego the illusion, and include the full shot in the original, our intrusion into the shot be damned.

But then I realized, after watching through the full clip again, that there were a few moments when everyone was out of the shot, and I could magically overlay the edges onto just about every offending second of footage. I literally could edit myself out of the scene.

Which, in one sense, was the ultimate goal, always, especially with photojournalism — not only to apply whatever magic you had to convince the viewer that you had let the subject speak but to make yourself as invisible as possible, removing all traces of yourself entirely.



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