As a working photographer I reckon to have made at least 100 exposures a day for over 45 years, thats 16,500 days…thats gives as a minimum 1.6 million frames…I think this is on the low side so I will round the total up to 2 million photographs over the past 45 years…but how many actually count, how many made the final cut…and how many have stood the test of time.
My office filled with thousands of bromide prints and hundreds of thousands of negatives.
I started the formidable task of making sense of my archive some years back, I have negatives in pristine condition made in 1970 while still a trainee photographer and I have negatives developed against deadlines in hotel bathrooms while on the road that have already started to decompose.
For my book I edited and edited and then I edited again but I still had nearly 1500 individual strips of gelatine to scan and retouch in photoshop…some were beyond the pale so I resorted to copying bromide prints and in many cases the end result using a high end digital camera produced a better result than that that came out of a ‘press darkroom’ on the day.
Every frame scanned had to be fully captioned and keyworded, every frame had to be extensively retouched. Scratches that ran the length of a strip of film known as ‘tramlines’ and were caused by over excessive and heavy handed application of a squeegee or a dirty bit of chamois leather used to dry the film quickly against a looming deadline. These scratches really tested my patience but I figured that I would only have to make a perfectly retouched scan once…so I kept at it…despite RSI and a shoulder pain caused by years of hunching over a computer keyboard. Thank you my little helpers in the shape of 500mg doses of Ibuprofen !
After 3 years of scanning and editing I had about 1300 perfect scans for my book. I put the sets of pictures into folders such as ‘USA Election’, ‘British Election’ and so forth but very quickly found that editing this number of images on a computer monitor was the way of madness. I then discovered a wonderful online cheap as chips printing service called photo box where for about 9p they would print a 7”x5” print, all in with no cropping and in a couple of days, delivered to my door.
I soon had piles of 7×5 prints in my office so off to ‘Homebase’ for a couple of wallpaper decorating tables which gave me enough space to play a giant game of photographic patience.
After spending weeks moving the thousand plus prints around and really not getting anywhere I raised the white flag of surrender and called in a professional picture editor in the shape of Glynn Griffiths. Glynn is a photographer, a sculptor, a picture editor and has been a really good friend of mine for the past thirty years. He understands my slightly left field way of seeing the world and has a wonderful memory for pictures of mine shot years ago. We consumed some wine and some rather excellent food at my house in north west Essex and got down to work. For three December days we froze and argued in my office and garage where the wallpaper pasting tables were covered with 7×5 index prints. We made an ‘A’ list and a ‘B’ list and juxtaposed images that just worked together….our overriding criteria being that the chosen picture had to be a belter, a ‘keeper’ as my friend, former National Geographic photographer Steve Raymer would say in the States.
After a day and evening we had the set down to just over 600…a way to go. By the end of the extended weekend in the deep winter of 2014 we had the selection down to 240 ‘art’ section images plus another 40 to drop into the text section.
We still didn’t know how many pages I could afford to print at the quality I required so I had to be prepared to let some of my favourite pictures go to the wall…a tough call…in the end I let Glynn be the arbiter…next year I’m going to get him to cut my roses back !