Collating

Today I've been collating my images from Iceland and Japan, with the thoughts of putting together two future book projects. I've been struck by just how much work I've done over the past three years in each location, but also, how much is still incomplete in the sense of producing a book on each subject.

Playing around with sequencing of my central Iceland photographs.

Visualisation is key in propelling me forward with what I do.  

By collating the work and laying it out in a visual sequence i'm able to build an emotional connection to how I see the work panning out as it continues to be supplemented with new work. This can be very inspiring for me, and I often find myself dreaming up some additional images in my minds eye.

This aspect of visualisation is usually down to 'lost opportunities' - those 'photographs that never were', as you spied them while passing by some place, or because the weather changed and you failed to make them on time. They leave an indelible mark on your imagination that trigger strong feelings of 'I must return here, as I know I am not finished with this location yet'.

As a result of all this visualisation and dreaming of expanding the work, there have been for the past few years, ongoing discussions with my Icelandic and Japanese guides as to new places I wish to research and photograph. Everything is a work in progress. This is all good stuff as it gives me purpose: I can see that there are still unfinished ties to each of the locations I've already made photographs in.

What is most exciting for me, is that I am acutely aware that I often underestimate how much new work will come out of further explorations. New work often enriches existing work by allowing it to take on a new identity. Sometimes I feel the work is one thing only to find out that once I'm done adding new work to it, that it has become something different entirely. And I find that just very inspiring.

Collating one's own work is a great way of figuring out what you've achieved, and where there are missing gaps in the work, and which direction you need to take it.

Playing around with sequencing of my Hokkaido photographs.

Being a curator of one's own work

"Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop."
- Ansel Adams

Nothing is more convincing about the quality of a piece of work, than the test of time.

It's something I always think about when I finish working on a set of new images. 'Wouldn't it be great if I'm still happy with these images in many years to come', is something I always wonder. And each year as I move forward through life I find that I change, and my impressions of what I have created also change.

Isle of Harris. Image was shot in 2014. I'm still very pleased with this image, yet it is now three years old. I wonder, will I still feel this image is relevant for me in a decade's time? Does it have staying power for me?

Isle of Harris.
Image was shot in 2014. I'm still very pleased with this image, yet it is now three years old. I wonder, will I still feel this image is relevant for me in a decade's time? Does it have staying power for me?

Ansel Adams is quoted as saying "Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.". But even with those 12 images, there may have one or two that would become part of your canon: work that you would still be proud of in years to come.

It should be something we all aspire to.

Going out there to make images is only really one tiny part of being a photographer. We also have to curate our work. Curation is all about raising you family of images to be the best they can be. It is an on-going process of returning to your older work to review and select, to help those older images live with your newer work. Our older work isn't static, unchanging. We change towards it and as we do, we must also reflect and review and understand its place in our present. I've found that it is hard to gauge my work until a few years has passed, because it is only then that I see one or two images that seem to stand the test of time, and stand out over everything else I have shot.

I think as time goes on for me, as I am getting older, I am now starting to think of what I do as a record of who I was at a certain time. I now understand that some of them have more staying power than others and some have become really important to me as time has passed.

We should all be curators of our own work. We are responsible for collating, documenting, and organising our past so that it can sit alongside our most recent work. We have to tend our garden well and look after not just the new buds, but also the established ones as well.