Streams by James Sedwick
This triptych of photographs from LensWork Extended #99, I should explain, is a composition that was not intended by the photographer. That is to say, in preparing the layout for Sedwick's work, as publishers and editors we combined these three images of his into this single layout. In fact, we do this quite often in order to strengthen the overall body of work by creating a rhythm in the portfolio. Presentations that include a single image on a page (in a book) or a screen (in a digital publication) and repeat this layout page after page after page after page can get tiresome. This is not because the images are tiresome but because the staccato presentation without any syncopation can become numbingly static.
In fact, I think this is an accurate observation about any photographic presentation, be it an exhibition in a gallery, a publication, a slideshow, or a web page. Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, after relentless and hypnotic ding, eventually drives us batty, no matter how beautiful the bell.
As photographers, we rarely need to think in these terms, at least not when were out with our cameras gathering the raw material of images that will eventually coalesce into our final presentation. In the process of capture and production, we are most frequently involved in simply making each individual image the best we possibly can. Almost without exception, this is the way submissions arrive here — what we affectionately refer to as "a pile of prints." We don't hesitate to impose our sense of sequencing and layout because, quite honestly, that's the role of an editor and of publication design. I do think, however, that it would be beneficial if more photographers took on that role for their own work and started to think in terms of sequencing, diptychs and triptychs, and other variations in layout and presentation that give their body of work a more dynamic presence.
I've said for some time now that our generation of photographers has a different challenge than the previous generations. When Ansel Adams and his generation created a wonderful photograph that was well-composed and especially when it was exquisitely printed, that accomplishment alone was worthy of applause. It was so incredibly difficult to create a stunningly beautiful print — especially a large one — that it was a rare accomplishment worthy of praise. Today, with all the technological advancements of the last 70 years at our command, it's simply not that difficult to make a stunningly beautiful print. It's not rare, it's not remarkable, and it's not even much of an accomplishment. (As a long-term darkroom worker, it pains me to admit this, but it's just so obviously true, at least from my perspective as a publisher.)
The challenge for our generation of photographers is one of — to use a somewhat crude phrase — packaging our work for consumption. That is to say, non-photographic components like sequencing, text, titles, layout and design, graphic extras, and the all important King Content are the great challenges of our generation. We still have to make stunning prints with full command of our materials, the light, and all the photographic variables that still comprise the wonderful image. But, we have to progress beyond that — at least if we want to rise above the cacophony of mere technological accomplishment. Seeing the relationships between images and the possibilities for more inventive presentations is a field of study that is well worth our time.
The portfolio can be seen in its entirety in our back issues — print (while still available) and our PDFs for computer, iPad, Android, and other devices. Plus, bonus audio commentary about this image is available to members of LensWork Online.
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