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On editing photographs

On editing photographs

I have recently been giving a lot of thought to picture editing whilst sifting through the archives of my work and adding and removing pictures to and from my site. It was my initial intention when creating the website to sort the wheat from the chaff, but now after having the site up and running for a month or so, I realise developing my ability to define narrative sequences or themes has become more of a priority.

Coincidently I came across Keith Prue, a photographer whose work I found online recently and it’s from his blog post I draw the following quotes:

Mary Ellen Mark: “Editing is extremely difficult. It’s taken me a long time to learn how to edit. Teaching has helped me with editing. When I’m editing my own work, I do a first general edit. Someone in my studio then scans my edits and enlarges them to approximately 5×7. We place all the enlarged scans side by side which makes it easier to see which frames are the best. Then I choose the final edit.”

Martin Parr: “You usually have a hunch, but the great thing about photography is that it’s so unpredictable, so you never quite understand how and when a good photograph comes about. But when editing, I do contact sheets, then machine prints and then select from that.” And when asked what makes one image stand out more than another, is it emotional or an intellectual reaction he answers: “It must be intuitive. If it were intellectual, I’d be able to explain what happens. That’s why I’m a photographer. I express myself visually, not verbally.”

Eugene Richards: “I pretty much know that a photograph is ’successful’ or not when I take it. So when I’m home from an assignment, what I mostly do is go looking for those ’successful’ pictures, hoping that I wasn’t kidding myself or that I didn’t screw up.”

Rineke Dijkstra: “I scan the negatives and make them bigger so you can see them more. Then I might leave them for two weeks because you need distance to see them properly. It happens to me that I take a picture and I think it doesn’t work at all and then I look at it three years later and I think it’s a great picture. It’s probably linked to having something in mind and being disappointed that your expectations weren’t met.”

I left further comment following Keith’s own observations on his blog but I’d really like to find out about how you assess and/or edit your own work.

Until recently I printed lots of my pictures and had them pinned up around me but being forced to tidy up in the hope that our apartment is rented soon they’ve all been packed away.

 Incidentally if you’re not aware of the series ‘contacts’ where famous photographers reveal their contact sheets, I highly recommend it.

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