Living With Photographs

I often find that I have to be in the right mood and frame of mind when creating photographs and then spend enough time with them before considering them complete.


When taking photographs I work hard not only to capture the image, but also to capture the experience and atmosphere. These are important elements of my work and I want to be sure they are included in the final image. Therefore I also need to be in the right frame of mind when I process the images. Unfortunately, processing the images doesn’t always occur immediately after, or in some cases any time soon after the photographs were taken.


I have lots of images that I have taken during photo shoots that I have just not started to process yet, simply because my frame of mind hasn’t been quite right to create the final look that I want to achieve.  In some cases the raw files can sit on my hard drive for many months before the time feels right to work with them. I usually know what I want the final images to look like when I make the exposures, but if I am not in the right frame of mind when processing them, the images loose some of what I tried to include when the photographs were taken. They feel flat. Being in the right frame of mind throughout helps me add dimension to the final images and create a certain feeling.


Once the images have been processed I need to spend time with them before I consider them complete. This is also an important part of my workflow. I need time to experience the images. I need to look at them often and see if they take me both to a  physical place and an emotional place. In other words, I try to make sure that the images not only remind me of the place but also the mood that the place imparted in me. Photographing the place is much easier to achieve than the mood. If an individual image or a group of images can emotionally return me to the place then I consider the work complete.  


By way of example, towards the end of last winter I took two trips to the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. I had seen some amazing work by others and saw some opportunities that I wanted to explore. ESP was closed down in the early 1970s and efforts have been made in recent years to maintain it in an arrested state of decay. It is a massive place and the cold, hard stonework only added to a sense of confinement, isolation and desperation. I wanted to capture these feelings in the images that I took. However, the images have sat on my hard drive for several months and I have only just started to process them, mainly because I have been working other projects and I wanted to focus on the ESP project without distraction – I wanted to be in the right frame of mind. I have processed several images, and am now starting to “live with them”.


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