Old “new” photographs: A lifetime of editing
The entire process of photography is editing – in one form or another. You choose one moment over another; one subject over another. And, when you’re reviewing your work either on a contact sheet or a computer screen, you decide which image belongs in your portfolio. Those you don’t choose are largely determined by whatever imagery is “hot” for you at that particular time. It doesn’t mean the others aren’t great photographs, but your ability to see them changes over time. What do you see when you’re 16? How about when you’re 36, 66, or like me, 82! When you look back on your photographs from an earlier time you will see who you were then and what was turning you on. All the color photographs you see here were taken in the early 80’s and are only being discovered now — 30 years later!
Most of us have consistent subjects and contexts that make our mouths drop open over a lifetime. Essential aspects of our personality shine through over time. Yet how we edit our work may change as we see and appreciate different facets of our vision.
Over the past year or so, with Judith’s help, I’m finally taking a closer looking at thousands of color slides, taken mostly in the 80’s — cataloguing, printing and now sharing them with you. It’s been an exciting process since it’s been liking seeing them for the first time. And I have to ask myself the question: how is it that I am just now really paying attention to these photographs taken 25-30 years ago!? There are probably many reasons, such as being into some specific project or deadline that captured my time and energy, not having assistants to help organize, edit, and print, having worked so much in black and white and still being focused there, taking more photographs than I could easily digest, living a chaotic lifestyle… etc.! We all have our reasons. But I’ve always urged my students to see the editing process as on-going. Look again at what you did five, ten or twenty years ago and you may find gems you over-looked! (Oh yeah… I’m finally taking my own advice!)
The partnership of my wife in the editing process has made a huge difference. A number of images that have become my most popular were essentially “discovered” by Judith looking through my contact sheets — images that were, in a way, languishing among the overlooked and which might have stayed that way were it not for another pair of eyes.
At 82, I’m looking at photographs taken 30 years ago and seeing them with new eyes. I suppose it’s one of the advantages to age and having a lifetime of work to re-examine. Every time I go back, particularly if I’m looking with someone else like Judith, or dealers, curators, editors or friends, I see something I hadn’t seen before. Or, I may have “seen” it and loved it then, but for whatever reason it simply didn’t make it into print form and before I knew it life had moved on and the images got left behind. It is a bit like hide and seek. Sometime a great image will remain hidden for decades unless you seek it out. So my advice is: take lots and lots of photographs for lots and lots of years and enjoy editing them for the rest of your life!