Through-lines

Untitled (black and white photograph) by Paul Politis

Some days, when the mood strikes, I like to set my camera to square format and to regard the world through that visual framing for a while. I never know on any given day what kind of mood I will be in, whether I will be particularly attuned to abstractions or realism, objects or to people, to black and white or colour, etc. I tend to just follow my intuition, to try (not always successfully) to remain open and without intention, and not to force anything. I wonder if others can relate to that?

Recently, I’ve begun putting together a set of handmade books as a sort of ‘contact sheet’ of all of my shots from 2022 that I’ve processed. If I’ve processed a photo it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something I consider posting online but that there is something interesting there nonetheless. Also, I mean ‘contact sheet’ in terms of the chronological aspect of the presentation of the photos, not the size of the reproductions, which will be mostly two per letter-sized page. It’s going to be a rather large endeavor (100 to 150 pages).

As I’ve gone through the work in chronological order it’s been fascinating to see the evolution of interests and subtle ideas, both visual and thematic, play out over time; days, weeks, months. On certain days or string of days or weeks I’ll see a recurrence of specific things or ideas; it might be a particular shape or pattern, a certain subject or theme, colour, composition, etc.

I notice, as well, that often the attributes of the first situation that I come across on a given day that excites me sufficiently to prompt me to take a photo often primes me to notice those elements elsewhere during the day as I wander along. Sometimes it’s very subtle, but placing the photos in chronological order (which I’ve not done before as I tend to place photos in my own idiosyncratic and increasingly hopeless foldering system as I process them) has made it easier for me to recognize some of these threads. The two photos in today’s post are one example of what I’m talking about, both taken on the same day this past October. I shot both from/of different bridges and you can see the similarity also in compositional lines, for example.

It’s interesting to me to see these subconscious elements, the exploration that seems to have an underlying method to its madness on multiple levels of analysis, revealing itself over time.

3 Comments

  1. Ah!

    I remember the last time you mentioned and posted square format images, and I commented my love and preference of the aspect ratio, and pondering myself if I could do it on my camera… but, then forgot, because I am me and have the memory capacity of a gnat.

    This here post of your’s reminded me of it, and before going any further, got up and looked… and lo’ and behold, finally found that I could! I had to get out of RAW format shooting to find it… to do so, I have to shoot in JPG, and/or RAW/JPG… but, can do! And a plethora of other aspect ratios, if I so choose… though the 1:1 is all I’d care about, and will definitely what I have it set to when I go out shooting next! Thanks, Paul!

    By the way, I really like the first, jack-knifed semi one, the way it lines up with the foreground wall to frame it all ever-so-nicely, drawing the eye to follow the lines, and the perfectly placed gentleman in the frame! Great capture!

    Ah, contact sheets! Now that brings back memories! Except mine back int he day could never be used as your intention, to look for a tending theme from a day of shooting or whatnot… as I have always been perpetually poor, and even more so back in my film shooting days, where every frame was precious for who knows when I would be able to afford a roll of film again! So, squeezing off a frame, the image had to be ‘frame worthy’ (a play on Elaine’s ‘sponge worthy’ from Seinfeld), and was very disciplined in my shooting back then… still am, I reckon, carryover from those film days.

    Anyway, point being, a contact sheet would have encompassed weeks, a month, months on it! Only exception, would have been the Summer of 2004, when I was doing my street photography series (sparked by our recently talked of Dave Beckerman’s work, that pushed me into shooting that particular genre at that time), and each weekend going out with a roll of film, and not returning until I completed the roll. Then, a contact sheet would have been all from one shooting day experience.

    Looking at the “contact sheet” of images in Lightroom, of any given year, in Grid viewing mode, which is essentially like looking at a whole year of images in contact sheet mode, I’m too all over the place in my shooting… the only thing that stands out, is my still personal preference to good ol’ black and white photography. The rest pending upon where I may be currently located at that period o’ my life… be it urban, or out in the middle of nowhere, nature’esque shots.

    I do find, as you found looking at a grouping, a theme initiated at the start of your going out shooting, persisting throughout the shoot… that I do have those, where an inkling possibly had in my craw to go out and shoot, and that being what I am looking for and focusing on when going out shooting that day… be it just simply – color, looking for color, as opposed to my normal tendency of black and white… an when the latter, always is shapes, geometry, lines, etc., that B&W naturally accentuates and brings out.

    Bottom line, my shooting is sooo me, in it being so entirely random, here and there, aimless, wandering… just whatever fickle thing that just so happens to serendipitously cross my path to tickle my fancy to take an image of it… whilst you, are the always ever better focused, and more disciplined in your shooting… of which I envy.

    Wow. I really need to get me non-virtual friends. As I apparently have absokutely no one to talk to about things, and so now two times in a row have gone off in doing so… at least Richard caught a break from having to read this one!

    • Thanks for sharing, Jeff. Yeah, I’m glad that I don’t have to economize on the shooting as I used to have to in the film days. Some of my favourite photos are ones I may not have taken in that case.

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