One of my biggest deficits as a creative is patience. I don’t mind long hours or tedious tasks but the idea of embarking, as many have, on a multi-year project is something that my need for short-term gratification wars against. That is why the nearly decade-long project presented in this article is purely accidental.
I was gathering a few of my favorite street shots for a self-published collection. Whenever I assemble a book I always take great care to pair the shots in a way that they compliment each other. I’ll typically do this over a period of days and consider it a central part of the presentation. A good shot can be lost if it’s in conflict with the image it shares a spread with.
As I was working on pairings for this particular project, the relationships between the imagery took on a life of their own. I began to see interactions-some of them complimentary, some in contrast.
An artist friend once told me that he viewed paintings as conversations across time. Something he creates today may be a response to a visual statement made by a painter 40 years prior. And, if the work he creates is memorable, a future artist may respond to it long after he has passed. In a similar vein, I began to see interactions between photos I had taken miles and years apart from each other.
In this instance, a chance encounter with Pete (a transplanted ad-guy from NYC turned cowboy) in sunny Madrid, New Mexico, mirrored a conversation with Mike (a wayward Newfoundlander returned home) on a craggy, foggy hillside just outside of St. John’s. Different men, different stories, and yet, somehow, they felt connected.
There was very little commonality between this well-dressed stranger enjoying a New Orleans music festival and my Knoxville neighbor relaxing on a bucket outside his apartment. But their bodies mirrored a similar sense of comfortable occupancy in their respective spaces.
Some of the relationships were more obvious than others. I was drawn to the Wes Andersonesque quatlity in these two holiday scenes where the commonalities were immediately apparent.
Others, at first, register as opposites but given a moment they are much the same. Despite age disparity and the fact that one is a husband and wife pairing and the others are siblings, they evoke the same sense of familiarity and proximity. The fact that the staging presents opposites of light and dark adds to the drama.
With many, the relationships are primarily compositional.
The relational ones, however, add a layer of humanity to the aesthetic. I found this late-middle-aged couple sprawled across a Viriginia beach juxtaposed against the twenty-somethings in LA fascinating. It communicated concepts about relationships and the progression of time that imagery articulates better than words.
Both of these frames captured women the moment after they realized I was taking their photo. The framing and body language are similar. The emotions communicated are not. The woman to the left is flattered, to the right annoyed.
Ultimately, sets speak for themselves. You know, a picture is worth…
As a photographer, when I go out to shoot finding something different or new is front of mind. But through this exercise I’ve begun to seek out what’s common; to capture like, opposite and complimentary moments. Historically I’ve tended to view a photograph on its individual merit. I’m now learning to enjoy the depth and texture and visual conversation they can create together.