Friday, February 4, 2011

Orphan Pictures

Untitled Surf Line, 2004

Do you have orphan photographs or illustrations or paintings? They’re the ones you can’t bring yourself to part with, even though you don’t have a purpose for them.

If you’re artistic enough to have created a large body of work—photographs, paintings, novels, short stories, musical composition or whatever—how do you keep up with it?

Some artists I know consider anything that’s completed to be ancient history. They forget about it once it’s done. They sell it or give it away or stash it in a closet somewhere.

I’m a little like that, but not completely. I do put photographs away and forget about them. But every now and then I like to pull up an old group of photographs and remember the moments at which they were taken.

The experiential part of this is that it’s an attempt to relive a moment, in the case of Untitled Surf Line, above, to feel the summer heat and hear the crash and sweep of the waves. But from a photographic standpoint, it’s also a way for me to re-live the journey of my photography. Some pictures I was extremely proud of five or six years ago I wouldn’t think twice today about discarding.

Untitled Surf Line, above, is one of my orphans. It was part of a series of photographs taken from a fishing pier. I thought the other pictures I took that day were better because they showed interesting compositions of people, as in Walkers, below.

But I can’t bring myself to throw Untitled Surf Line away, even though it’s been buried on a hard drive for the better part of six years. Walkers gives off an entirely different impression. It’s about the people. It could have been story pictures. The key thing is that in Walkers the natural environment is secondary. Untitled Surf Line, on the other hand, presents a warm spectrum of colors that could be seen either as the surf line is it, or as strata or as a simple demonstration of all the colors water takes on depending where it is in the wave and what’s underneath it.

Walkers, 2004


  1. They're both beautiful. The Untitled Surf Line is abstract, and I love the way the white surf curls towards the walkers here in the Walkers photo. I also love the way you can see the fading areas on the sand where the surf has shirked its shoulders in the recent past.

  2. That's such a good term, much better than what I call the postage stamps that have piled up over the years as rates have been increased. Sometimes an envelope isn't big enough to hold my collection which adds up to 44¢. I call them bastard stamps, but orphan is much nicer. And yes, yes, my orphan photo collection is phenomenal.

  3. Man am I homesick! I swear I can almost smell the salt air. You've also given me a new perspective on my stuff. I always leave here thinking! Thanks, Chris.

  4. Were these taken from the Little Isand Pier? I took a ton of shots there last year. Your post reminds me that I have at least a zettabyte's worth of pictures stored on the hard drive that should be sent to the trash.

  5. oh yes, both are fantastic.I love the non-peopled one as a wonderful abstraction and distillation of being by the sea.