Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I Just Got Good

Today I finished printing a new portfolio. Looking over this new body of work a smile came over my face and for just a moment, I thought to myself, “I just got good”.

I feel this way a couple of days each year. Until the plight of dissatisfaction returns forcing me to create new images with the false prayer that my next picture will lead me to visual nirvana.

My best works are pictures that teach me. This learning does not happen when the shutter is clicked. It happens later, after living with the image awhile, after letting the print take on its own life outside of my experience of creating it. When I am allowed the pleasure and pain of looking at the new work with a fresh eye and an honest heart.

I update my book around three times a year. I start by compiling a folder called, “possibilities”. I then ask myself some very hard questions. Which of my older children to I still love? Which of my babies are “book-worthy”? How do all these images relate to each other? And the hardest question of all, what do I stand for as a photographer?

I lay all the possible images on large tables and then I start to play. Every re-edit is gut retching. Each time when I start compiling recent work to be considered for the new edit I wonder where the good pictures went. It can take me up to three weeks of re-editing and re-arranging until I start to feel that this body of work is coming together. Once the edit pleases me, I have to ask, what will others see and understand from this new story?

After playing with the work prints, it is time to start the real job of printing. I find printing to be boring and exhilarating at the same time. Boring because each print takes five minutes, five minutes times 140 printings is a lot of waiting. Exhilarating because when I get it right, the prints can be breathtaking.

After the printing, the trimming and the binding I get to sit back, go through this new assemblage and hopeful at the end of the process I will say, “I just got good”


Zave Smith

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