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  1. #1
    Shawn Dougherty's Avatar
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    Knowing vs Understanding Choices

    I have been working in darkrooms for almost 16 years and with a new found passion and motivation for over 9 years. During that time I have been influenced by many photographers, painters, musicians, writers... all sorts of people. I have gone through periods of emulating the printing style (and negative processing) of various photographers while trying to develop my own way of seeing. This, more than anything else I'd venture, has helped me learn the craft of photography (and the fact that I will never stop learning...)

    For some time now I have observed and admired artists who work one "piece" at a time. That is to say that they come to each image, book, song, or painting anew. Yet in my own work I tend to worry about keeping things in line, wanting prints to match in color, texture and tone... considering my years spent experimenting with different styles it is probably needless to say that my body of work is NOT consistent in color, texture or tone.

    So, while I've known that my photography does not need to be consistent in such ways and admired those who make individual works... it has still troubled me. Until recently. I'm in the midst of organizing and cataloging my negatives and prints and in so doing have been taking a trip backwards in time. And only through this process have I begun to understand that each new photograph presents its own unique set of challenges. And in order to solve those challenges we are faced with choices. It is what we choose that not only makes our work our own, but also, what makes each piece stand on its own. Limiting my choices for the sake of consistency will only serve to limit the scope and, ultimately, the evolution of my photography.

    As I continue to sort through my archives and make decisions about what prints are acceptable and what prints are not, I now base those decisions solely on the merits of the photographs themselves. One at a time.

    I also understand that this is personal and that there are those who impose limitations on themselves for artistic purposes. And that only through working within, and often times against, those constraints are they able to thrive.

    But for me, there are more than enough limitations built into the process itself to struggle against. This realization has been a long time coming and it is incredibly freeing. I wonder if others here are going through something similar? Or have gone through it already and would care to share their own thoughts?
    Last edited by Shawn Dougherty; 08-31-2013 at 01:14 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: typo

  2. #2
    blansky's Avatar
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    Everybody goes through "periods". All part of the journey.

    That's really is why we save our work. So we can go back and see if we missed something.

    I don't really think angst is productive. Just do your gut feeling at the time and take time to review your archives on the cold winter days and check your growth or your ruts.

    Every singe day we wake up in the morning we can reinvent ourselves.
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.

  3. #3
    Shawn Dougherty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blansky View Post
    Just do your gut feeling at the time and take time to review your archives on the cold winter days and check your growth or your ruts.
    I think that is excellent advice. I have found that I require a bit of time between the making of something and having the ability to see it clearly, without the haze of expectation.

    Quote Originally Posted by blansky View Post
    Every single day we wake up in the morning we can reinvent ourselves.
    Thankfully. =)

  4. #4
    blansky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shawn Dougherty View Post
    I have found that I require a bit of time between the making of something and having the ability to see it clearly, without the haze of expectation.


    Whenever I photograph people, kids, scenics (not too often) I bring them back, download them (develop them), go though them in Lightroom (make a contact sheet), then don't look at them again for a couple of days.

    Then I go back, get into context of what they are, and slowly pick my "picks". Then I leave them again for at least a day, then go back and just look at the picks and start making decisions. Then I decide on my "keepers", ones I will work on. I never look backwards at this stage.

    Then I start to examine which one I really think are the best of the keepers and start working on them. Once they are done, then I may go back to square one and do a run through to see if I was right in my choices. Occasionally, I'll bring in a couple more, but not usually.

    All that being said I've gone back to square one a few years later and wonder why I missed some that I now like.

    But my point is I need mental space between shooting and making decisions about which ones have real possibilities.

    Back in my darkroom days I often found on portraits when I doing exposure tests, (I didn't do test strips) I'd have a 20x20 set up on the easel and lay down an 8x10 sheet for a test of just the face, I often found that the 8x10 was a great print. That taught me how to do radical cropping, that I later trained myself to do in the camera. It totally changed how I saw people and faces.

    Happy accidents.
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.

  5. #5
    Shawn Dougherty's Avatar
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    Thank you for that, Michael. I know you've been at this about twice as long as I have so the fact that the experiences you share are so relate-able is reassuring in a way.

    Many times I will return home from the field, develop my film and print the next day. Sometimes it's a near seamless process. Other times I am unable to pull what I want from the negatives at first or I am simply unable to print as much film as I expose. Either way, coming back to negatives after time has elapsed can be a complete rediscovery.

    I took a trip to Oregon and northern California in 2011. I made some nice prints but was extremely unsatisfied with the majority of my negatives. I'm going through some of that film again now and wondering what the hell I was so unsatisfied with...

    Time can be a hell of an editor.
    Last edited by Shawn Dougherty; 08-31-2013 at 05:03 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: typo



 

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