The Permanence of your Photography

by Jul 29, 2019

One of the things that I keep pondering is the permanence of my photography. I talked about it back in May in What’s Going to Happen When You’re Gone?, I discussed my plan for doing prints and keeping them in a portfolio box as a way to create permanent and shareable copies of my best images last fall in The New Piece of Gear that’s Reinventing My Photography.

Here’s a quick status update on that project: I’ve failed miserably at getting images into that portfolio box. I ran into a problem I wasn’t expecting: me.

Here’s the problem: when I’m doing printing to validate an image’s processing, I typically do 1-2 test prints, sometimes three. When I print an image to put it in a frame and up on the wall, it’ll typically take me 3-4 prints before I’m happy. With the portfolio box, and (I think) with the terminology baggage associated with the word portfolio, I found that the first image I was willing to put in took me nine rounds of print/correct/print before I was happy with the quality. A dust spot that wouldn’t be seen on a framed image? rejected and reprinted.

It took me 8 hours to get that first print into the portfolio box. I was assuming from my normal printing that time would be more like an hour or two. And the last six months, there’s simply been no time. I’ve got four other prints started down that path and finished none of them. Honestly, I don’t see any time soon where this will change, either, with the various projects I have going on.

So I’m declaring abject defeat and going to plan B.

So, what was the goal again?

Taking a step back I stopped to ponder what the real goal of all of this was.

  • The first goal was to recognize my best images and make permanent copies of them.
  • The second goal was to have copies of images I should take out and look at, and share with people when they visit.
  • The third goal was to create a set of my best images that didn’t require technology to view, and would survive and be seen even without that technology being available. Make them real.

Ted Forbes of The Art of Photography on YouTube does a Friday show and tell of the mail people send him, and many of the things he shows off are zines, small self-published books or booklets of images that today are quite easy to produce through sites like blurb or adoramapix, are inexpensive to make, and are of good quality. This idea of building zines hearkens back to my days in SF Fandom when I was publishing OtherRealms and a member of FAPA and sharing my writing in a very similar way.

Once I made that connection, doing this as an alternative to the portfolio box felt like a good option and felt right.

I have now produced the first one of these. After months of branding meetings and focus groups, I’ve given it the innovative title 2019(1). It’s 22 pages, it’s printed on Pearl paper, and it has the images from a number of the collections I’ve built and talked about in the last year, 2018 Best Images of the Year, and 2017 Best Images of the Year (Revisited).

I decided to publish through Blurb because I’ve used them before and like the quality. The cost was about $30US a copy, and I had a PDF produced of it for passing around as well. You can download a copy of that PDF here. The time for producing it was about 3 hours, since I didn’t feel the need to obsess over every pixel for this.

In the zine, I can be happy showing off the images without obsessing over making them perfect, so I can actually finish doing it. I’m really happy with the result. I ended up doing three printed copies, one going off to Forbes soon since this is his fault and I should inflict the results on him, and another for someone else, but the audience for this is me, and that audience likes the results.

The portfolio box continues to be a part of my plans, but now, it’s going to hold images that I love if and when I can take the time to pixel perfect them. The pressure of feeling like a project isn’t done is gone, and sometimes, finding a way to re-organize how you define a project to remove that is a victory in itself.

the Portfolio box as I set it up was a great idea, but not realistic given my ability to feed it what I wanted to put in it. We’ll see how the zines go — I already have enough material for a second but it’s all older work and I’d really like each volume to have some new work in it, so we’ll see what I produce on the upcoming trips.

If there’s a lesson to be learned here, I think it’s this: don’t be afraid to try something and commit to it, but also, don’t be afraid to admit it when you’ve bitten off too much and learn from that as you go off and try something else. It’s better and less stressful to redefine a project than leave it hanging over your head reminding yourself you haven’t done it yet.

After all, when you’re putting deadlines on yourself, the only person upset by missed deadlines is yourself. And you always have the ability to change that….