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Time Away

January 29, 2009

Over the years I have read about many “old school” photographers who say that after they are done with a story, or an essay of photographs, they will set it aside, waiting a few weeks, a few months, a few years to finally sit down with it.

I always thought this a little odd, and being a child of the 1980’s, my mind has always been about the right now.

In the words of Homer Simpson upon arrival of his first microwave oven, “What do you mean I have to wait thirty seconds, I want it NOW.”

For years I never even made contact sheets, preferring to edit straight from the negatives, and knowing in my heart what I had on film even before it returned from the lab.

Now I make contact sheets, which are easier to see, and also give you a far better idea how something will print, but even still, I realize now might not be enough.

As I’ve noted here in the past few weeks, I’ve returned to printing in the darkroom, the best thing I have done in my adult life as a photographer, and yesterday I went in to print three images from a story from 2006.

These images I have printed before, digitally, and one of them has been shown twice. The contact sheets I have seen many times before.

But something strange happened yesterday. I made my first print, and as I was putting the negative back in the sleeve, I noticed an image I had not printed before.

“Wow, how did I miss that one?” I thought to myself.

So I printed it.

And as I was putting that one away, I notice another I had not “seen” before, even after looking at that contact sheet many, many times.

I made five new prints yesterday, most of them being “new” to me.

This is somewhat of a frustrating concept because it makes me realize what a rush I have been in, perhaps for my entire “career,” but the positive far outweighs this small fact.

I’ve got the negs, and can now return and see what I have really done all these years.

I’m realizing, more and more, that speed has no place in my photography. There are times when I have to do shoots that are based on speed, but I’m hoping to do less and less of those. This bucks the current trend in imagery, where most everything is needed five minutes after it is produced, but I’m okay with that.

I think in times like we are now living in, and those times we and staring into, you have to proceed, not with caution, but with your heart.

In the end, your heart and your negatives are all you will have left.

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