Over the break I’ve taken some time to edit.  I’ve tried to be brutally honest with myself and the result has left me feeling a little conflicted.  Of my last 250-300 or so pictures I had pulled perhaps 20-30 selects.  That puts my hit rate in the 10:1 range which is fine.   

After the purge that ratio is definitely down to 15-20 to 1.  There were whole rolls of 120 where there was only one image that was worth keeping.  On others there were none, if I was blatantly honest with myself.  On the 35 side the last roll I scanned has 2 pictures that didn’t hit the edit room floor.  Just two.  There might have been aspects of certain images that I liked–great shadows or great comp or a great subject–but when I take a step back, they aren’t as good as I initially thought.

Brutal honesty when it comes to your own work is tough.  After the purge, I was having a pretty hard time feeling positive about my work.  I looked at the carved-out shell of selects and tried to remember why the hell I keep shooting.  And I don’t mean that in that in some vague, fleeting sense, but more in in terms of a truly panicked and self-deprecating fury.  It’s gut wrenching to feel like you’re standing still in your personal work but t’s devastating to realize that you may be going backwards and ultimately it’s somewhere west of the genus hysteria when you don’t have a single notion of how to fix it.   

So instead of hyperventilating I sat on my hands and did nothing photographic for a few days.  Instead I decided to bury myself in books, mainly fixating on Gruyeart, Kertesz and Cartier-Bresson.  While languidly perusing through “Europeans” for the eighteen-billionth time, I had something of an epiphany.  I was suddenly struck with the realization that there were actually images in that book that left me feeling blank–images that, had I been the editor, I would have removed.  Technically, they were fine for the most part.  The problem was that they lacked something, the same sort of something  that made me edit out so many of my own images.  It’s a difficult sensation to describe, but the closest emotion I can pin it to is a feeling of detachment–that while a particular picture is indeed interesting and technically well-executed that it’s not really engaging.  In short, there are images by Cartier-Bresson that I simply do not find captivating.    

Now, let me impress upon you, dear reader, what a sense of relief it was to have this moment of realization.  You may be asking, “but who are you Chris?’ and that’s a fair question.  I’m not a photo-editor or a gallery owner or a curator.  I’ve never published nor have I ever shown.  What I am is a human with eyes and a heart and a soul who wants to be engaged by images and (here’s the nitty-gritty of it) if I would be willing to sacrifice an image crafted by the grand-master-extraordinaire-de-street-photography, then I’m am holding myself to the highest possible standards.  In culling so much of my own work I am in fact doing exactly what I should be doing: being brutally honest, pushing myself beyond what feels comfortable and ultimately holding my work to the highest possible standard.

Now, if only I could make something that I could hold to that standard–I’m still a little behind in that fucking department.  

Shot on my Leica M7 on the 35mm Cron on Kodak Tri-X film pushed +1 at the Icon.   

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