Did I lose you yet? Let me bullet point my tedious research/writing process and then skip to how this applies to revisiting old photos:
- The initial phase leads to perhaps 100 pages of typed notes
- I then move on to the "notes of my notes" phase, where I pull out possibly relevant quotes and get it down to maybe 36 pages.
- Finally, I write the actual academic article (that will be read by far fewer people than this hasty blog post) and use only a fraction of those notes.
- First, I take way too many photos (unlike Eggleston, by the way, who thinks that if you take more than one picture of the same thing, then it's just too painful to have to choose)
- Next, I rate my photos in Aperture. One star means "Why am I keeping this? I should really just delete this. Help! William Eggleston was right!" Two stars—i never use two stars, what's the point? Three stars means the photo has no major technical flaws. Four stars means I think this could be the one, but I don't want to commit until I have seen all the options. And five stars means I think the photo is worthy of actual post-processing attention.
- Post-processing doesn't mean I'll ever bother to print. A very small fraction of photos end up on my wall or in an album. And the ones that make it aren't always the best ones; they're just the best ones for a certain context.
This struck me when Becky from "Life with Kaishon" included the following photo of mine in her interview of me:
I actually love this photo, but I had completely forgotten about it. I took it two years ago as Eva was sleeping on my chair. She's five now, and the blanket is still a huge source of comfort for her, although most of the time it has to stay in her bed.
In my hunt for the original file in Aperture, I opened a folder of photos I took for her birth announcement and there it was—the blanket, making its pink and pristine début as a backdrop for our equally pink and pristine baby girl. I immediately made a diptych of the two photos:
There's an empty 8x10 frame on our wall that I have never gotten around to filling. Now, thanks to some digging through forgotten photos, these two become part of a printed composition.
The moral of this story is that a new context might give you a renewed interest in some images that would otherwise fall into oblivion. Take a little time and open one of those folders of neglected images. Wander the uncataloged stacks of your photo library. See what inspires you now. See what a little cross-referencing can do. Give something a chance to make it into print.