By Luke Winter
[Article compares the compulsion to shoot, and ecstasy of shooting, with the alternate faculty of editing. Article begins with the anecdote of a photographer expressing their wish to die and an editor to subsequently arrange and publish their work without them, before examining what is narrow in that point of view.]
Half thought he saw. His other half’s scared. Know he won’t check, is still walking (The Writing Editor doesn’t like this phrase. He calls it clumsy). You’re past him now, have flipped your camera to the front of your hand. You got it. Another two steps, you’re lined up perfectly and *BLATZ*, nailed the angle on that bin. Feet ahead swivelling to the side past two idlers and the way that pavement will intersect that lamp-post in half a step’s time and *BLATZ*. Got it again. Feet forward. Momentum. Shot after shot and *BLATZ*. You’re surging.
[in the street]
(Henri) Cartier-Bresson danced in the streets, and since his nobel lead there’s been a grand conga-line of photographers doing their own kid-kodak jives (watch Mark Cohen’s style of getting double fist freaky). Each to their own beat.
Being on a run of perfect rhythm shooting is ecstatic. Camera shutter singing to your perceptions. Hunting, archery, dancing; pick your own metaphor.
[Scanning in shots, loading them up. A darkened room, alone.]
And there, laid flat and bare, tepid and lifeless, are your shots. Devoid of the elegance, poise and precision that surged through you as you shot them. Palpably pathetic results when held against the ecstasy in which they were created.
Cruel truths: the picture from that time that was excellent is not excellent. The image is not nuanced with the fullness of your feelings, nor emblematic of all crevices of your memory.
An image is an image is a thing only of its own. Your experience is saved but thinly by these simple frames. If you need save that experience you must explore a deeper route.
“There must be a fuller way, we who know beauty must be able to communicate it”
You feel the opposite of this art that you love that is two halves, constructed backwards. Where the ecstasy and performance comes first, in the street, surging. But second comes that slow, forlorn composition: a solitary brooding in a room picking over the images and acknowledging that time and time again you failed. And that you need try again, again. And for such slim results.
C O P I N G - S T R A T E G I E S
1) Delay: (Gary) Winogrand shot so much that he couldn’t keep ontop of his archive. He’d leave his rolls a year before processing and editing. The delay gave him time to forget himself and experience of shooting, and focus on the shots. Proof.
2) Shoot Less: William Eggleston takes a single shot of each intrigue, to limit, he says, shivering between near identical shots when editing. Shooting less allows him to focus on the more important tasks in the edit than swivelling all energy picking between near duplicates.
3) Shame Yourself: Show pictures that you’re not sure about to a good photographer in person. Watch their face. Be burnt by shame. Scales fall from your eyes.Their derision creates your decisions. You’ll be able to pick your images with keener focus. And they may identify gems that to you meant nothing.
P U R P O S E
(The Writing Editor tells me something. “You talk a lot about editing here. You should discuss how editing photographs is different from any other medium. With writing, it’s fluid. With painting or sculpture, it’s almost non-existent because publishing isn’t the main focus. Photography has its own set of cruel limitations imposed by the source material and the inability to correct a moment.”)
If photography can help us dissect the world, observe it, interact with it and stir it up, editing helps us dissect ourselves: what clues of our subconscious fascinations are hidden in these endless captures? Where have we succeeded? How have we fallen short? Editing is sorting through the tea leaves to divinate a future direction. what have you been exploring that works? What sets of circumstances should you chase in future to build on that work and more explore that future?
Photography leads us through chaos, we tend to little sections of life. We discover. We cultivate. We feed on motifs that work, emotions that we can capture. Beyond simple ecstasy, beauteous youth and picturesque landscapes, we peer into peevish gutters and create new perspectives. But only if we engage with shedding the self from our images. Only if we acknowledge that painful fallacy of photographs, and focus on creating good images, not preserving our own lives. That, is learning to edit.
Editing, compared with the shooting, is a solitary, sometimes lonely, often frustrating and tedious waltz. But it is a dance that photographers must master as sharply as the dance of the taking of photographs. It is the other half of the feedback loop that informs our perceptions for shooting, understanding what angles and parametres and ways of moving the camera can yield a good image when applied to particular situation.
Editing is where we make images, compose the stories that we might be able, if we’re very clever, to present to others that they might enjoy. That can hint at the ecstasies and mysteries that daily entice us to leave our rooms to go back into the street, the fields, the chaos flow of space, light, humans and the earth in time, to again dance with the camera and pluck photographs from the peculiar beauties of life.
[Article ends with that photographer who wished that someone might edit their photos into work for them, dead.
Editor arrives to find in that archive the beginnings of paths. Scattered throughout tens of thousands of frames are peppered the starts of motifs, but explored only in small ways. Unaware of what it was they were shooting and what worked, the photographer has not elaborated on the visions that they had begun to pull from the world.]
“I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.” - Jack Kerouac
[The archive of photos is confused, and without the photographer having tackled that confusion to discern meaningful routes that might yield work of interest to others, no meaningful subjects have been explored.
A little book is made. Despite good editing the book is convoluted, shallow, ignored. Lost to our world is another victim who sucummbed to a confusion that they never tackled. Who might have made but never stood in the full glare of their failures and battled back against their confusion to hew out a golden path of meaning to communicate the beautiful confusions of an existence.]
[a pigeon in the gutter, threaded grey by red worms]
(The Writing Editor suggests a more hopeful final image but after considering the abyss of online media, lets it remain.)
"Then one day it will be complete enough to believe it is finished.
Made. Existing. Done. And in its own way: a contribution, and all that
effort and frustration and time and money will fall away. It was worth
it, because it is something real, that didn’t exist before you made it
exist: a sentient work of art and power and sensitivity, that speaks
of this world and your fellow human beings place within it. Isn’t that
beautiful?” - Paul Graham