DISCREPANCY

When I look at my Instagram feed I’m struck by the weird (at least to me) discrepancy that is shown there. On the one hand there are photos of my garden and of me communing with the backyard chipmunks.

There are also photos from After the Fact, the book I’m in the final stages of producing. A book about, maybe, the rise of fascism, and the changing political and physical climates. Large events that  we are living through and, if you are conscious, trying to make sense of.

But I think many of us are stuck on the horns of that dilemma. We wonder how to live our lives in an era of lowered expectations and rising outrage, how to reconcile beauty with cruelty and greed. And I think a lot of us deal with it by becoming obsessed with both ends of that spectrum. We are obsessed with living perfect, photogenic lives and we are obsessed with the fucked up state of our world. That is the continuum we are stuck on, the continuum we bumble through. Our lives.

Of course, if you take the long view, what’s happening these days is actually the norm. The years between, say, 1950 and 2000 were actually an anomaly. In that era we had a rising middle class and politicians and captains of industry who at least gave lip service to serving their constituents and workers.

But that was just a bubble, a weird confluence of events that gave First World citizens hope and rising expectations. Before and after that bubble, though, our civilization was a lot tougher, a lot rougher. That was the norm.

Problem is, we (most of you reading this) came up in that bubble of more or less peace and prosperity. We think that that’s the way things are and should be.

Think again . . . or dream on.

PERMANENT

Coming to a conclusion, it seems to me, is one of the most difficult things in photography. To know when you’re done shooting, and to edit and sequence the images you have, to arrive at your point can be nerve-wracking.

Of course, if you put your edit online you can change your mind in a day or two, or in two months, no biggie . . . you just make the changes. With a photobook, on the other hand, once its printed there’s no going back,  it’s all locked down, permanent.

And that certainly sharpens your mind.

Now that enough money has been raised to turn After the Fact into a book I find myself in this place . . . finalizing my conclusion. Up to now it has just been a dummy. Image order, print quality, and a million design details were always in the back of my mind. Now I must move them forward, fret, second, third and fourth guess.

The zen dudes will tell you: “First thought, best thought”. In photography that most often, but not always, applies when you are there on the ground shooting. The edit/sequence process, though, requires a second and a third and a fourth and a hundredth thought. Shifting one image will cause a cascade of further changes, will skew meaning and flow, will alter the course of what’s come before and of what will follow.

So I’m having a hard, hard look at the “final” dummy of After the Fact (which I’m quite happy with) and intend to explore some nuances.

For instance, I remember when I was sequencing I was torn between these two images:

The top one is the one that’s in the dummy. The bottom one, I thought, too closely resembled an image which appears 3 or 4 pages later. But, seeing as there are repetitions and echos throughout the book, I’m now having a rethink.

Just like I’m having a final rethink about the whole thing. I’m nervous and excited and can hardly wait.

If you missed out on the Kickstarter you can still order the book here.

THAT FUNNY TIME

A few weeks ago I ended my post by saying: But, really, I’d rather be out in the world turning over stones, seeing what kind of bugs crawl out.

That post, in general, was about completing the exciting phase of a project and dealing with its commodification. I suppose some folks like the commodification aspects of photography, especially if they measure success by sales, accolades, and so on. Me, I find it mostly dull.

I mean, sure, there are some fun and rewarding aspects of bringing a project to its conclusion . . . I get to work with my hands, make prints and dummies,  hold stuff and figure out how to hone the work into its final shape.

But I miss going out into the world and, well . . . reacting.

So, while I’m still in the commodification phase of my last project I’m also in that funny time in any creative person’s life: between projects.

What’s next? I wonder.

I’ve been mulling it over, but not in an overt, front-of-my-brain way. More like letting thoughts percolate in the back of my brain and, every so often, I think to pay some attention to what’s going on back there.

Typically I spend 2 or 3 years on a project. The only way I can be engaged for such a long period is if I choose a subject/project that I’m genuinely interested in. Every new project begins (and continues) with a struggle for discovery and some attempt at understanding my relationship to that which I’m photographing. The fact that I look for more from the process than merely ending up with a bunch of new photographs complicates matters.

So I’m biding my time, secure in the belief that, sooner or later, something will come forward, assert itself, capture my attention.

But I’m in no hurry these days. I’ll just let it happen.

In the meantime . . . I garden.


SPOTS

There are still some spots available in my Master Classes. Check out last week’s post for a précis or go here for detail:

Deeper
Portraiture as Experience

DUMMY DOLDRUMS

As I have mentioned here (ad nauseum, I’m sure), these days I pretty much do the photography thing in order to discover and to learn.

The great thing about that is that I get to, well . . . I get to discover and learn. And once I’ve completed a project all I want to do is another. You know, more discovery, more learning.

But these days we must commodify our output, right? I mean, if we want a career in the photo-biz we’ve got to put at least as much time into careering as we put into creation. We’ve got to make the rounds and seduce (in our own way) the powers-that-be and the gate-keepers in order to get that exhibition, that grant, that acceptance.

So  . . .

I’ve been in the dummy doldrums. My current project is nearing its final shape and it kind of feels like I’ve gone through the peak-excitement phase of the process. But I realize I need to take this last project through, I need to fine tune it in preparation for its commodification.

The sequence seems (to my mind) set . . . now how do I turn it into a book? That’s what I’ve been working on, pecking away at yet another version of the dummy. But it’s inevitable that a designer be brought in to apply their expertise and show me things that have never crossed my mind.

One of the other things I’ve been doing to move this project towards completion is, I’ve been crafting a short, sharp, 250 word blurb that informs and intrigues. Not exactly an artist statement, more a prospectus.

Now, I like writing. I find that if approached in a certain way it can, like photography, show you something you didn’t know was there. And that’s happening with the writing I’m doing for this work, it’s teasing out some nuances I hadn’t noticed or thought about before.

But I don’t want the writing to give too much away. I’m pretty sure the work is able to speak for itself so the last thing I want to do is to direct, in any direct way, what folks should see in these photographs.

And I do want people to see this work, these photographs.

But I seem to always do this last bit, the publishing bit, grudgingly. The thrill of discovery is gone and all that’s left is the drudge work. I mean, sure, you get to fine tune and make stuff with your hands and deal with a million details.

But, really, I’d rather be out in the world turning over stones, seeing what kind of bugs crawl out.

 

QUARTER-FINAL DUMMY

It feels like I’m getting close to a final, or, realistically, a quarter-final dummy. Five thousand images have been whittled down to forty-six in a specific order. And, after a surprising amount of finagling, the text has been sorted, too.

I’m happy with the general look and feel, the flow of images and, for lack of a better word, the content. Now it seems that what’s left is a whole bunch of detail work (final design, fonts, format, image size, etc.).

The first dummy was made of 3×4 inch work prints slotted into the sleeves of a 5×7 album.

That served its purpose for about a week, a week of moving images from here to there in the sequence and some preliminary fine-tuning.  The images were too small, though, to show to anyone else, so I did it all again, this time using a standard print size of 5×7 inches in an 8.5×11 album. I also took this opportunity to fine-tune the prints a bit. Still not the final versions, but closer.

This is the dummy I showed to all sorts of people. Their feedback, and further thinking on my part, resulted in moving some images around, removing some  entirely and adding others. A general tightening up.

Then . . .

I had initially thought that each image should carry an equal weight, so all the prints in the dummy were the same size. But what would happen, I wondered, if I varied the size of the prints . . . what would that look like, how would it work?  And, what sizes should I use?

So I had another look at the dummy and figured out a strategy. I’d use the same sequence, but 3 different print sizes. Once that was decided it was sort of obvious which prints should be standard size, which should be bigger and which should be biggest.

So, as of today, this is where it stands. There will be more changes, but it’s beginning to feel quite tight, real right.


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