Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Prolificacy

It's been difficult to think of things to write about on this blog. It will come with time, I'm sure. But reading Todd's post over at Gallery Hopper about how many photos one shoots and shows in life was inspiring enough.

I've actually been thinking about the concept of editing quite a bit recently, especially after my recent experience at the portfolio review. I received a few very strong responses to my work, but the majority of them were along the lines of, "good, but you need more images to fill out these series, and to edit the work that's already here more". No one really outright said to cut certain images (save one informal review outside the bounds of the event). But sequencing and editing have become very apparent critical steps for me since then.

And up until that point, the idea of sequencing made very little sense. I understood it in the abstract, but seeinig reviewers' confusion at a misplaced image drove the point home. I started understanding how ineffective arbitrary arrangement can be. Needless to say, by the end of the event, I had completely rearranged the portfolios and cut two images. With only an original total of 19 images, those could have been a critical two. And I'm sad to say that one was cut mostly for the inadequate printing, which I should have never accepted.

(OT: I put up a note to myself in my darkroom a few weeks ago when I was in the midst of some heavy printing. It says something along the lines of, "It's never OK to settle for a mediocre print" and, "Don't take shortcuts. It's always better to do it the right way." Those obviously come across as a bit vague and lame, but I've had the tendency in the past to get tired of making test strips and just try printing a full image before I'm sure I have the right values. And then I might even settle for a print that's close but not perfect. This is what happened with that one image. It was a tad on the flat side, and actually had a majorly blown out window that could have easily been printed down. I took a shortcut, then accepted a sub-par print.)

Anyway... I think we, as photographers, need to accept that not every image we make is going to be exactly as we'd envisioned it. Moreover, just because some images do turn out how they were planned doesn't mean they're any good. Often the most powerful weapon in a photographer's arsenal is the ability to cut an image from the lineup... even if they're in love with that image. If it doesn't work, it should disappear. There's the argument that it could be made to work, but again, it's about context, so it would probably take adding more images to the lineup for it to work.

And that's why I think it's important that not every photograph see the (public) light of day. We need to live with our work, and of course show others, but specifically in the form of critique. At least that's how I'd like to operate.

I told a friend of mine today that I had a singular image that has always gotten enormous praise, but no one's ever seen the first image I took at the same shoot. And thank goodness... it would have diluted the power of the second image.

Another friend of mine and I always talk about photographers we find online and see in shows and books. We came across someone's work recently and liked most of it. But we were always disappointed when the photographer would have two images that were very similar, and essentially (and obviously) just two takes from the same shoot. "Just pick the best one and move on... you can't just not decide."