Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Garish: The Cutting Room Floor

State Highway  30, Dodge County, Minnesota, May 2009

Selecting the final images for my upcoming book, Garish: Roadside Color Polaroids, has been an arduous -- and humbling -- undertaking.  

From over 2,500 original photographs, the process of narrowing the selection to the final 91 images to be published was difficult, to say the least.  Although I have been working in print media since 1988, all my previous labors were concentrated in magazines or newspapers that published weekly or monthly.  Pressing deadlines had a way of excising the inessential with hardly a care.

But when you make a book, especially your first, all your creative impulses come to the fore and result in... an unwieldy mess.

Every photograph is like your own child, and cutting those apron strings to beloved pictures is not unlike the proverbial death of 1,000 cuts.  

The first cut was the easiest: 2,500-plus photos became 437 in one day.  

It was the subsequent cuts that became tedious, grueling even:  Never having put together a book before, I went into the project thinking, "Oh, 437 pictures -- we can fit that into 120 pages at roughly four per page."  So, I commenced retouching and restoring 437 photographs, one at a time, in Photoshop.  With the assistance of photographer Laura Klecker (who also assisted with the first two rounds of editing), it took almost six months of patient and steady labor to fix them all (and if you've ever scanned and retouched a 108 Polacolor print, it can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to more than an hour, because of the dozens of tiny imperfections the development process leaves on each print).

Then, 437 became 263 -- another two weeks.  

263 become 150, and then 91.

From time to time, I will be publishing the ones that got away: Sentimental favorites that stood well on their own, but didn't quite work well with the others, as a whole.

But, if you've ever read my report cards from grade school, you'll read that I didn't work well with others myself.