Friday, February 22, 2008

Viewing Our Own Work

I'm sitting in my office and surrounding me are 33 prints, one a gift from a friend, one of mine framed nicely, the rest simply pinned to the wall. I've tried rails but my standard paper (enhanced matte or whatever they call it this week) is too flexible and won't stand up on a rail without either falling forward if the rail is too narrow or slumps if it's wide enough - pin holes are easy to fix.

Do you immerse yourself in your work - can you visit your prints several times a day, even if just in a glance?

Interesting things happen when you expose yourself to your images this way. Minor flaws start to really bug you, images that wowed you at first, after a few weeks you wonder what you saw in them, other images that were kind of so so start to appeal to you and a select few grab you just as much as they ever did.

I'm convinced this repeated viewing of our images is important to our development as photographers.

7 comments:

Tim Gray said...

I'm becoming more and more convinced that this "imersion" over time is critical to evaluating our own work. Maybe I'll eventually reach a point where I can assess a print without having to look at it for an extended period, but for now it sometimes takes me a couple of week of seeing a print every day to realize the color is a bit off, or something else really should be fixed before (for example) committing to a large mounted print.

Steve W said...

Regarding this thought and your last, there is an interesting parallel here with a collection of music. I’m sure we’ve all bought a CD in the past based on one song that happens to be a hit on the radio. At first this is the piece that gets played over and over but with time and an open mind we start to fully appreciate other songs. In fact, many times I’ve found myself favoring a piece that I originally didn’t like – probably because it has more to give but takes repeated listening to comprehend. I think this is the same with images.

As for the appeal of “one hit wonders”, that may be a sign of the times – getting our superficial quick fix – whether it’s looking at an image, listening to a piece of music or buying the latest must have consumer toy. There are times when the “one hit wonder” fits the bill but more often than not I prefer to listen to the full album or browse through the entire folio for a given collection. The experience (if you have the time) is much more rewarding.

Lastly, I think that photographers progress in their development along a path that includes the one off “wow” shots that are like a million others out there. Eventually the growth leads away from this as you find your own voice and start to advance towards collections that tell a story and have more depth. For me this also means moving through the ego-centric to the subject-centric image. Personally I’m not there yet but understand that I’m on a journey that must go that direction in order to leave a body of work that is, in the end meaningful.

George Barr said...

Nice analogy Steve and I suspect you are right that we photographers gradually change from looking for the dramatic to the insightful.

George

Chris Whitpan said...

I find myself hanging my best photos up around the house, and change them out as my mood fits. Although I am finding myself more and more in need of wall space!

I might have a suggestion with the rails. I work in restaurants and we have what we call "Ticket rails" these hang the paper from the top by marbles in a track. I think you might find it ideal. Just contact a local restaurant supply store. They are stainless so they have a good aesthetic.

Thanks for the blog! I am finding that I am learning a lot! I love the shot of the chain on the pully a few days ago.

julie o'donnell said...

Very interesting - great follow up comments too. I've felt a strange sense of unease when admitting to my friends that I don't have my own pictures up on the walls, because I can't stand to look at them day in, day out. I'm almost too scared to hold them up to that sort of test... but recently I've started tacking up small prints next to my computer at work, and I'm pleased to discover that some I enjoy even more than at first, so maybe it is an excellent way to determine the real keepers...

julie o'donnell said...

Very interesting - great follow up comments too. I've felt a strange sense of unease when admitting to my friends that I don't have my own pictures up on the walls, because I can't stand to look at them day in, day out. I'm almost too scared to hold them up to that sort of test... but recently I've started tacking up small prints next to my computer at work, and I'm pleased to discover that some I enjoy even more than at first, so maybe it is an excellent way to determine the real keepers...

(George, can you delete my previous comment please, blog address wrong! Sorry...)

My Camera World said...

I do hang my images on my walls. I get to choose some, my wife the others.

The images I hang are the ones that have the best appeal for my taste. I can look at them over and over again.

But these are no the ones that win the awards for competitions I enter. I tend to like the abstract and obscure and when I submit several images my personal favourites do not normally win. I tend to think that judges are still going for the more traditional approach to images, simplistic and colourful.

And too often I hear that element should be photoshoped out. While I do perform heavy editing and composite images, there are at times I do like all the real elements to show. ‘This is how it was then’

Niels Henriksen