[The idea for this post came up when I was interviewing Jerry Takigawa several years ago. All credit for this piece should go to Jerry. If you’ve got a beef with it, blame me.]
You start a photographic project. Maybe you stumbled into it by accident; maybe you planned it out meticulously well in advance. It’s going great. You’re really happy with the work, and you’ve gotten into a groove. Then, slowly, over months or years, you notice that it gets harder and harder to get really good images. You can’t figure out why. You’re doing what got you to this point. You haven’t fallen into a rut. You’re still excited about the project. You still see new things. You’re just not getting as many keepers as you used to.
Jerry points out that this is natural, and it’s caused by your body of finished work not expanding as rapidly as your production of new images. As you start the project, every good picture goes into the “exhibit someday” pile. When you get twenty five or fifty exhibitable images, you start pruning. You put two pictures in, but take one out that you don’t like so much anymore. Sometimes, you go through and throw out a whole class of images (see the previous post). Over time, the quality of the pictures in the keepers pile goes up. It’s no wonder that it gets harder and harder to create images that make the cut.
Not only does the general quality of the images get higher the longer the project progresses, but certain niches with room for only one image get filled. I returned from a photographic trip in October pretty darned happy about the work I did, but I found that I couldn’t use the very best picture from the trip; it was too similar to a slightly better image that I’d made in April.
So cheer up. Your pictures aren’t getting worse. Your standards are getting higher.