The stages of photo-making


I  usually am working on many photography projects at once, all at different stages of progress. My categories have a vaguely Hollywood sound to them: some projects are just fragments of ideas, often jotted down on a crowded white board. Others are in “development” where I’m experimenting, researching, kicking ideas around in a more focused manner. Later they are in pre-production which is everything prior to having a “negative,” be it film or digital. In the digital world, especially if it involves stitching or other significant processing, this can be a great deal of work.

It also involves the editing of images, or at least as much of the editing you can do before you are actually printing the images (“production”) and seeing the final prints.

I’m at the end of that preproduction, editing stage now with my current project. I started this recent phase with hundreds of prints–all of which I’d already chosen as candidates–so there were layers of editing before this as well. But these were the final run of candidates. Now my job was to shrink this down to some manageable proportion. At first this is somewhat easy. Now that you see the three hundred or so images you see some that are similar, too similar. Some don’t hold your interest as you thought they would. Some just don’t look right. Cut, cut, cut.

The problem is that as cut it gets harder to make the next cut. The ones that remain are increasingly ones that you have strong feelings about. They are special to you. A few you need to cut because you note problems or see overlap. A few you cut because you recognize that they don’t really make the grade no matter how you feel about them. You squeeze and squeeze until you can squeeze no more. And there are still too many. More needs to be cut.

At some point in this process I usually print all of the candidate images in low contrast versions and put them on a wall or stack them somewhere where I can flip through them again and again. I want to see them, to live with them. Even a week or two will surprise you. As you walk by several times a day, glancing over the images, certain ones will continue to grab you, certain ones will continue to offer up interest upon examination. Others will grow weak, will grow stale upon repeated viewings.

I’ve been keeping this project in a portable stack of 8x10s the past two weeks. I’ve spread them out here so you can see them. I’ve already noted several images that I probably will cut but I’m giving them more time. Things come and go.