For the past while I've been watching the photostream of the G+ Communities I subscribe to with a certain amount of disquiet; nothing overt but more a Columbo-esque "somethin's been botherin' me" kind of niggle in the quiet recesses of my brain. The best way I can put it is like this: "Is it just me, or are people just posting 'happy snaps' and passing them off as photographs? And why is it that frequent posters are not showing any improvement in story telling, technique, drama tension, humour or composition?" I have other questions that I can't articulate yet but it all forms quite the interesting cocktail party in that area of my brain. Admittedly G+ contributors are all enthusiastic amateurs (in the best sense of the word) like myself so perhaps these perceptions are realistic given the population of these communities.
On top of this there have been several insightful articles with titles such as "Kill Your Babies" (on editing your work) and "Street Photography Has No Clothes". These are but two but you get my drift.
It is with this in the background that I pulled back completely to ponder my a) editorial process, b) my entire process of engaging with the environment in which I work on any given day and c) am I getting any better or is just random chance that I make an image that is decent and finally d) are any of the images that friends and family say are good, good or is just a mercy compliment?
I finally decided that all of this was, in the end, just mental masturbation and that I should just get on with things. It was in reading Minor White's article in the first issue of Aperture that kicked me out of my funk. If you don't have it, buy "Aperture Magazine Anthology - The Minor White Years" and you'll see that many photographers today are just treading the same road as White, Lange, Newhall, and the rest trod all those years ago.
With that, I'm going to start with a my second shoot and work my way around to the other two in future posts.
I was in New York this summer for about a week (never long enough) and walked. I think I logged about 25 miles a day. After letting them stew in LightRoom for a few weeks I edited down the equivalent of 20 rolls of 36 down to 14 images that I thought were OK. After shuffling the order around to see what narratives and groupings popped out I found that I had 3 things running through the 14: Children, Workers, and Isolation.
It was odd that I had taken so many images of children as I normally don't photograph them, more out of respect and not wanting to be a creep, but I was presented with such rich opportunities that this is what fell out:
It was brutally hot in NYC when I was there but the hard work of making the city run has to continue.
I've been working on two projects called "Converse" and "Communion". They're not very strong projects yet, but I think there is some meat on those bones I can make a decent stew from given some time. Conversation's obverse is Isolation and even in Times Square (which in the summer at peak tourist season makes a Japanese subway car at rush hour seem spacious) there are moments of isolation.
All Said and Done
Looking at these, I think there is one great image that could stand on its own without any other context. Perhaps three others that are strong enough to be included in a portfolio. Kill your babies.