As I went through the box of prints that Eric Bosler selected for the Hartnell show, I put the image files into a Lightroom collection that I created for the exhibition. The sort order happened to be “Capture Time”, so it was easy to see whether the pictures were from the beginning, the middle, are the end of the 3 1/2 year series.
Eric picked images representing all phases of the series, with equal representation of each. When I show people work from the series, I emphasize the later pictures. I think there’s a natural tendency for photographers to like their latest work the best; I know that’s true for me. Also, as I work more in a series, I begin to appreciate what it is all about, and the later pictures tend to be truer representatives of what has emerged as my intent.
For example, I thought I did some great work in Miami Beach, which was one of the last places I worked on Nighthawks. Eric picked only one image from there, and that one could have been make in any big city.
Eric’s lack of emphasis on consistency applies to the shape of the images as well. Because this series is captured on the fly, it’s not possible for me to simultaneously have pleasing compositions and maintain the same aspect ratio for all the images; I must crop after the exposure. Most of the cropped images end up about twice as long as they are high. Some need to be squarish, and maybe a little taller than they are wide; I tend to leave them out of presentations, and I left them out of the show on the East Coast. Out of Eric chose four of the taller pictures. I can now see some possibilities for variety in hanging that wouldn’t have existed if all of the photographs had similar shapes.
With the Nighthawks pictures there’s a continuum in the dimension of abstraction; some of the images are almost completely realistic, bordering on documentary, and some are quite abstract. In putting together the Choate show, I picked images that straddled the line. Eric picked one lifelike image for the Hartnell show, and several that are quite abstract.
To quantify the differences between Eric’s picks and mine, I set up another Lightroom sort order, this time by the number of stars I had assigned to the pictures. I am not very precise about assigning star ratings in Lightroom, but I do it to make it easier to pick images for particular purposes. Still, I find the following comparison illuminating. Of the 34 images in the Hartnell chow, there are five with five stars, fifteen with four stars, nine with three stars, four with two stars, and one with one star. Among all the images in the series, there are seven with five stars, fourteen with four stars, 27 with three stars, 25 with two stars, and 107 with one star.
It’s great that I now get to see my work through someone else’s eyes, and I’m hoping that the people who come to the show will feel the same way.