Monday, September 13, 2010

What Goes? What Stays?

Editing, 2010

I know enough about the editing of photography to have learned that I am probably my own worst editor. But I do try to be thoughtful whenever I gather up my work for submission to a competition or when, as I was yesterday, going through the pieces of the At the Beach series for the purpose of creating a pdf book based on the series.

You may recall how impressed I was recently with Elli Reinholdsten’s Chasing Reflections, a book in pdf format distributed by David du Chemin’s Craft & Vision venture. Since that time, I’ve purchased yet another “book” in pdf format, du Chemin’s collection of photographs from a recent trip to Iceland.

After seeing Chasing Reflections, I was determined to learn how to produce a pdf book. I found that I had an old version of Adobe InDesign that has all the basic features I needed to get started. I went furiously about learning the basics of the software. (Turns out that it’s not hard and my ability to do it is proof of that.)

I’d already decided I wanted to do a pdf collection of At the Beach. I even did a short prototype to get the technique down. But to do one I’d be willing to share with a wider audience would require a little more serious thought about the design, the copy and the content.

So I’m back to the original editing quandary. I made over 400 shots while working on At the Beach. Almost three-quarters of them were discarded immediately. From the remaining hundred or so, I’ve pulled out three dozen that I think are worthy of initial consideration for inclusion in this final collection. My guess is that’s still too many.

Editing is like throwing out children. Some are talented and beautiful and you know they’re going to be winners. Some are ugly and easily discarded. (Okay, maybe children aren’t a good analogy here.) Those are the easy picks. It’s the ones in the middle you don’t know what to do with. They’re not obvious winners or losers. Each has something that adds to the story.

And then there’s the whole idea of whose eyes you’re editing for. Whenever I start posting work from a new project at Flickr, I try to pace it some, but still put the most powerful work up front where it’ll be seen first. But I’m frequently surprised when an image posted towards the end that I thought was okay, but nothing special, gets all the attention.

I suppose serious artists are driven by something inside that tells them how series should be edited and sequenced, and to hell with anyone who thinks otherwise. But I also know that artists and writers and musicians also rely on gallerists, editors and producers who know how to shape their raw creations into a coherent presentation.

So that’s where I am right now, still trying to sort through those 36 images from At the Beach and figure out which ones deserve to be shown, whether they should have some kind of written accompaniment and what the whole presentation should look like. When I’m done, I’ll be happy to share a copy with you.


  1. Can't wait to see the finished project!

    Now you've got me thinking about sorting through the files on my external hard drive......the small percentage of what I've shot over the past months and didn't discard outright. On the other hand, we may get snowed in again this winter and I'll need something to keep what's left of my mind occupied so maybe I'll put it off a while longer.

  2. Cool! Hope you do share it! I'll bet it will be fabulous. Your worst throw-away would easily surpass anything I'd ever do! Some of us were meant to be appreciators!