Whether landscapes, portraits, or details, I am drawn to beautiful images. I love freezing scenes in two dimensions. But I am just as much in love with the process as the final product. With a camera in my hand, I become lost in some undefined space that doesn’t follow the rules of time. I can easily, unknowingly, press the shutter hundreds, even thousands of times. Similarly, I can edit those images for hours on end without realizing how long I have been at my desk.
For me, this is the gift of photography, and, in its own way, a curse. At the end of any given year, I shoot between 100-000 and 250,000 photographs. There is always a wealth of material to sift through, mull over, enjoy, share, and discard. I enjoy every step of this photographic process. From prepping my gear to sharing the images, I find a rhythm in the cycle. I am also challenged by it. The stage that I wrangle with the most is the culling process.
Like me, the vast majority of professional photographers select a mere handful of images to share and take hours, days, or even weeks to cull down to the final cuts. This culling process is just an industry standard.
The final images that photographers “let out” are chosen for a variety of reasons. The few shots shared will be indicative of the photographer's style. The final cuts might be chosen tell a story or to draw an editor’s attention. The final images might be selected in hopes of getting more work in a particular genre. Some photos are chosen simply because they are beautiful, or gruesome. But, you better believe that the images a professional photographer chooses to share will be their best work, images strategically selected in order to highlight the particular skillset the photographer wishes to sell (in one form or another).
I understand the need to cull the plethora of images we make. The images photographers present will further establish our brands and will fuel the artistic personalities we have painstakingly manicured. We want to show our best work so that we have cohesive portfolios that are comprised of quality over quantity. We want to show our best work so that we are thought of by viewers, peers, and potential clients in high regard.
Oh, culling. This part of the photographic process is so challenging because of the mental wrestling match we have in our own mind. We have to separate our emotional attachment from our images and try to objectively look at them. A tough task. But the process is only made more exhausting by the nagging thoughts of self-doubt and fear of judgement.
“You are only as good as your last image.” Over and over we hear it, we repeat it to ourselves. We begin to believe it. But belief in this, or any other self deprecating adage, only leads to a protectionist state. We guard our RAW files so that others don’t see the “imperfections” of the original shot. We have terabytes of space filled on hard drives, millions of images that will never be seen, a digital graveyard surrounding us.
Honestly, most of my images really aren't worth much, mediocre at best. Frankly, most of my work is rubbish.
But, I also acknowledge that there are a good number of images that I have made and love. For one reason or the other, those shots just didn't make the final cut into a portfolio, blog, or even onto my Instagram feed. These are images aren’t technically sound, composed properly, or creatively stellar. But, these images do still have a place in my heart and in my greater body of work.
At this point, I am fine with sharing more of my work (yes, even the mediocre stuff). Does this damage my reputation as a professional photographer? I don't think so. In fact, I think that sharing more of my work is, if anything, an example of how we, as artists, can take ourselves a little less seriously.
We need not protect our images (paintings, manuscripts, poems, or sculptures) as if their quality, or lack thereof, will define us as artists. We should share our work and offer it to the collective pool of artistic effort. With this in mind, I am going to start sharing my “B-Roll,” images made over the last years that didn't quite make the final cull.
Below is the first batch of B-Roll I would like to share. All images were made throughout Pics of Asia’s Central Vietnam photo tour.
Location: Central Vietnam
Date: June 2018