peripheral vision

photography by Kate Wilhelm

peripheral vision blog

because making photographs exposes as much about the photographer as the subject

Archive for August, 2009

shooting vs editing

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Tony Fouhse in his post today talked about ways of shooting and editing, and how one influences the other. He concluded that he prefers to shoot a lot and give himself permission to make mistakes, bark up the wrong tree, and edit them out, than to restrict his shooting and show every single frame. I definitely have the same approach.

However, I shoot a bit compulsively; I take the same picture over and over again, almost as a kind of insurance. I do try to move around and explore the subject from many angles, but I suspect it’s all a bit excessive. I’d like to blame digital, but I remember shooting an entire roll of 36 frames in South Africa of exactly the same scene, and not one of them was remotely usable.

For example, I’m working on a series of photographs about John. I think I mentioned him here before? Anyways, back in July he invited me to photograph him while he got a tattoo. I was delighted. And I knew that because this was part of a larger series, I’d probably only end up with one shot in the final edit. So I went and I shot. I shot close to 500 frames, and in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell I was thinking. The thing is, I knew only one frame would end up making it, but I didn’t know which one that would be. Maybe it will come with more experience, but the Decisive Moment doesn’t present itself to me when I’m shooting with trumpets and stars. I’ve had way too many experiences where six months or a year down the road, I find a photo I’d initially labelled as a reject but now discover it’s actually really good. I’d just been too close to the experience of shooting and the expectations I developed in the moment. I’ve managed to narrow it down to 8 frames.

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I’m not sure how I’ll proceed from here, but since I still have more shooting to do with John, I’ll let the project unfold before I get my knickers in too much of a twist.

Image Makers, Image Takers revealed some interesting takes on this issue.

William Eggleston had this to say: “It happens so fast. I compose very quickly and without thinking, but consciously. I take a picture instantly and never more than one. Sometimes I worry about the picture being out of focus, but I take that chance. A long time ago, I would have taken several shots of the same thing, but I realized that I could never decide which one was the best. I thought I was wasting a lot of time looking at these damn near identical pictures. I wanted to discipline myself to take only one picture of something, and if it didn’t work out, that’s just too bad.”

Whereas Tina Barney said, “My theory is, the more pictures you take, the better you get. It’s like a sport. I never wait to get a particular shot because wonderful accidents can happen when you shoot a lot.”

Also, I’ve recently seen some collections with different frames from the same scene or almost the same moment, that I find quite thought-provoking and compelling. The first was in David Goldblatt, Hasselblad Award 2006, which I got from the university library. The book contains several fold-out pages that show three different views of the same scene, and they don’t feel self-indulgent like someone just couldn’t decide at all. Each image adds to the other in a meaningful and important way. Laura Pannack’s series, “grams,”is another example of several shots from the same day and scene.

Nevertheless, I’d like to find a way to be a little more deliberate and sparing in my shooting without closing myself off to the unexpected.

new gallery on my site

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

I’ve added a new gallery to my site. Long-time readers might remember my post about photography and homelessness and postpartum depression, which included a quote from Another Bullshit Night in Suck City:

“Last night Mackie had a la-z-boy set up in Rat Alley, watching a television hotwired into a light pole. My father stepped into Mackie’s living room, checked out a couple minutes of play – can these still be called the glory days of the Bird? Step out of your room, settle into a discarded recliner – are you inside now or out? Position your chair before your television, take your walk, find your coffee, by morning it all will be gone – no inside no outside, no cardboard box no mansion, no birth no death, no container no contained, a Zen koan, a frikkin riddle. A garbage truck hauled the tv away, another will be put out on the sidewalk tonight. But a la-z-boy, my lord, maybe not again in this lifetime.”

That quote has been rattling around my head ever since, and I’ve decided to use it as a statement for this latest collection of images. Together, they make a sort of meditation on the idea of home and the boundary between inside and outside.

* * *

I’ve been reading Henri Cartier-Bresson’s The Mind’s Eye, and he says something that I think is also relevant here:

“I believe that, through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us, which can mold us, but which can also be affected by us. A balance must be established between these two worlds – the one inside us and the one outside us. As the result of a constant reciprocal process, both these worlds come to form a single one. And it is this world that we must communicate.”

* * *

Inside out

happy anniversary to me!

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Ten years ago today, I got his phone number off the store computer. Completely illegal, but it was getting late in my last shift ever there, and he was too cute to let disappear. Turned out it was moot, he came anyways, and he pulled a tiny scrap of paper from his pocket with his phone number on it. He hates it when I get to this part of the story, because he blushed and stammered when he handed me the number, and later that night my friends validated that with that kind of blushing and stammering, the mandatory waiting period before the phone call is null and void.

Five years ago today, I shoved a ring on the ring finger of his right hand, and I couldn’t understand why it didn’t fit. Hours later, he finally managed to put the ring on his left hand, and we drank wine and ate dinner and watched belly dancers.

Tonight, we will ride the bus downtown. I think it’s been almost ten years since we rode the bus together. We will have dinner and a few drinks and maybe end up on some dark and sticky dance floor – if I get him drunk enough – which we also haven’t done in ten years. He thinks we’ll just feel old, and he might be right. But I figure it’s worth a try.

Wow.

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

I am awe. Joerg Colberg just published new work by Sally Mann, accompanied by an essay by Mann that just had me spellbound. Between the words and the images, I felt like I was reading a love poem.

Go look and read.

hit me with your best shot

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

I got a phone call tonight from the Stephen Lewis Foundation, to which I donate 50 percent of the proceeds from online print sales here. They’re launching a new campaign, “A Dare to Remember,” and they wondered if I would be willing to participate from Oct. 17 to 25.

I am.

The thing is, I can’t think of a good dare. But I have a feeling maybe someone here can.

If you check out the website, you’ll see they have different categories of dares and suggested fundraising goals. I would love to do a bold dare and aim for $1000. So what do you think I should do?

Leave a comment here or email me at kate (at) peripheralvision (dot) ca with your most outrageous ideas — tamer ideas are welcome too.

some quotes

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

“I have no real argument against so-called set-up photography, at least as a process. [...] photography is inherently a fiction-making process. Don’t speak to me of the document; I don’t really believe in it, particularly now. A picture’s not the world, but a new thing.

 

“That said—too briefly—my argument against the set-up picture is that it leaves the matter of content to the IMAGINATION of the photographer, a faculty that, in my experience, is generally deficient compared to the mad swirling possibilities that our dear common world kicks up at us on a regular basis.”

~ Tod Papageorge on Alec Soth’s old blog
“Literature especially has an interesting relationship [to] photography – to observation, to description, to fiction: taking something that you see and elaborating, jamming, and I think, staging. That weird practice between staging and finding is very much like a Ray Carver (story). You think, “he’s seen this,” but he’s taking that moment of observation and letting it go, giving it some wings, following it, rather than nailing it. You’re riffing off of reality.”

~ Larry Sultan on AMERICAN SUBURB X

what I did on my summer vacation

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

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So last week we went to my parents’ cottage. My brother and his family weren’t able to come after all, so for several days it was just me, my husband, my son, and my parents. Which means I got to read a lot more than I expected. I read Image Makers, Image Takers cover to cover first. It was fascinating to read about the methods, approaches, and philosophies of so many different photographers. Before we went to the cottage I went on an Alec Soth binge, reading his old blog and any interviews I could clap my eyes on. It was on his recommendation that I bought Image Makers, Image Takers, and it was also his recommendation that brought me to Robert Adams’s Beauty in Photography. I just happened to find his later book, Why People Photograph, which I also read at the cottage, and I think I actually like it better than Beauty in Photography. His essay on Paul Strand I found especially illuminating, not just about Strand’s work, but about how to read photographs and what makes great photographs great.

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Back when I first watched The True Meaning of Pictures, I thought that the critics who said that Shelby Lee Adams’s subjects weren’t sophisticated enough to really understand what was happening in the photographs of them were just snobs or assholes. But I’m coming to realize that there are degrees of visual literacy, and mine is deepening.

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I even read some poetry. My mom bought Jeramy Dodds’s Crabwise to the Hounds, which just won a Trillium Book Award and made the shortlist for the Griffin Poetry Prize. I actually have a lame claim to fame with this book, because I went to high school with Jeramy. He even dated one of my very good friends for a couple of years. Another friend from that time read his book a while back and said she’d always known he had the soul of an artist. But I knew no such thing. To me he was kind of intimidating; I had no idea he was interested in reading let alone writing – I thought just liked to get drunk and play mailbox baseball. Anyways, turns out he’s a really good poet. The language is so good and dense that I had to stop and think about each line, and I could only read a poem or two at a time. I meant to bring it home with me, but by the time we left my son had developed a tummy bug, so my packing was rather distracted and I forgot it.

I have to say the vacation had some big ups and downs. My husband lost his wallet in the torrential rains we drove through for two hours before we finally stopped at a Tim Hortons. We realized the next day his wallet must have fell out of his pocket when we ran back to the car. So he had to make all sorts of phone calls and trips into town to deal with that.

On the up side, we got to meet my new nephew, who my sister and her husband adopted in May. He’s 22 months old and utterly charming.

Also, the lake happened to have its annual corn roast and fishing derby, and my son caught his first fish — in fact it tied for first place in the under 6 fun fish category.

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He also ran in the egg and spoon race. And you know how there’s ALWAYS one kid who runs away? That was my kid this year. I was laughing too hard to get a decent picture, but I did manage to squeeze this one off showing one of the organizers in hot pursuit. I’m kinda proud to see him breaking the rules at such a tender age.

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We stayed at my parents’ farm for a night too, which is where I made these next few pictures.

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And now for a few more pics from the cottage:

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