Contact sheets soaking prior to wash

A brief email exchange with a friend in the USA reminded me of the joy associated with the contact sheet.

Proofing and examining work that has had time to sit in the draw is always a wonderfully exciting thing. Once there is a little time between the event and the edit, new things are found, pictures that didn’t jump out suddenly have your attention. The more complex, quiet frames begin to shine.

Bill Jay and Magnum photographer David Hurn wrote about contacts in the oft referred to book ‘On Being a Photographer’. Hurn stresses the need for them and the fact that they should be of a quality that allows you to properly assess what is on the film . They are an incredibly useful tool for looking at how you worked up to a particular picture.

Wednesday was a quiet afternoon in the darkroom, proofing some negs and playing with a few plastic prints, checking an idea. Then off to Wakunai on Thursday morning for a quick trip to visit a few people and organise some access to a walk I’ve been meaning to do for some time. Took a few contacts sheets to show to some guys who I photographed last month.

Wakunai September 2009

I think this is another important use of the contact, to allow people to see the unedited whole, to understand what you are doing. Even if it is not something they like or wish to participate in, the transparency of the undertaking is often essential.

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