“In the Zone. Winthrop, MA 1972”
When I was a student of photography at Emerson College we were taught the zone system. Made popular by photographers Ansel Adams and Minor White, the idea was through optimizing exposure and negative development you could capture to it’s fullest, all the tonalities availabilities of the black and white negative. Though it was a system based on science and chemistry what it really provided was a methodology between visualization of the photographic subject and producing the optimum final result. To capture all that was in what you could see, was the ultimate goal of the zone system.
Many photographers struggled with it. It wasn’t easy. A slight variation in exposure of your negative or the temperature in the developing bath and you missed it. I think I might of got it right once, with this photo of the woman on the commuter train. But, when you did achieve it, when all the right pieces came into place, you took your photographic skill to a new level. You were…in the zone.
We’ve all used this term before. And I believe we have all lay witness to the experience of someone, or ourselves. being “in the zone”. It’s that singular moment when everything that’s there, that could be there, is there. We see it in sports when the team’s power forward is draining three pointer after three pointer. We see it in music when the members of the band on stage seem to be so locked into each other that the music takes off to a place one can only imagine is reserved for the heavens. But what is most important, I believe, is that we recognize it as human beings. We all know, that down deep inside all of us is a place where it can all come together. Whatever it is, in the end we become locked in with what we believe is how good it can be. How we get there is different for everyone. It takes practice, hard work and great faith. But the beauty of it is, is that you know down deep inside it does exist and you know this to be fact. The zone is always there, it’s up to us to find it.