Charlie Waite • Behind the Photograph

Although we are often told not to judge a book by its cover, everyone does. Charlie Waite looks at how you can use this to your advantage

Twenty years ago, I was sitting outside a café in a popular Tuscan hilltop town, and had unusually been waiting for two hours. Peculiar though this may seem, it was one of the most fascinating and revealing two hours that I have ever spent. The café had two outside tables and thankfully, one became available. If there had been no table free, then I would never have learned what I did and therefore, would not be recounting this tale.

On the other side of the pedestrian street, and precisely opposite my table, was a tourist shop with a large postcard spinner just a few feet to the right of its door. I had a full view of it and had calculated that there were perhaps 60 different postcards of the town, many showing the town in its landscape setting. Before taking up my ringside seat, I had already spent some time looking at all the cards and had identified what, in my view, was the best image.

It was not simply the best from all the choices available to visitors, it was a superb landscape photograph in its own right and I was full of admiration for the craft that had produced such a fine photograph. I bought three copies of this same image.

I sat down and, over a period of perhaps 10 minutes, I found myself watching tourists as they stopped to look at the cards. That 10 minutes grew into a full two hours as I watched and observed the fascinating process that each passerby went through prior to making the decision to buy a card that amounted to an expenditure of no more than perhaps 20 cents. I was particularly intrigued by the time devoted to the card selection process, often as much as 10 minutes.

A great deal of time investment had gone into the business of choosing the image. They may just as well have been ...

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About Author

Charlie Waite

Charlie Waite is firmly established as one of the world’s leading landscape photographers. In a 30-year career, Charlie’s images have been published in numerous books and exhibited in the leading galleries of the UK, Japan and USA. He is the founder of Take a View, Britain’s biggest landscape photography competition. In December 2013, Charlie launched USA Landscape Photographer of the Year, an international quest to honour the best images of the American landscape.

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