Nevada State Route 159 (Randy), 2007 copyright of Douglas Stockdale
How do you finish a photographic project? I am begining to think that I don’t know this answer.
I guess that there are many ways to find closure on something, whether it is events in your personal life or during a photographic project. Then there are those things that seem to happen that bring everything back in focus. Emotional triggers for personal issues.
For me the fact that it takes time to complete all of the tasks that I want to complete for a particular project, I seem to get caught in the drifting technology improvements. With my engineering background and belief in the motto of continuous improvement, I evaluate the new technologies and products and find out that these new innovations can improves my photography. Since I have a project in progress, I start to bring in the changes, and it seems to impact everything that I have already completed for the series. Yikes.
At times it seems that I am like a painters whom who doesn’t know when to stop working on a canvas, even after it has been exhibited and the image published and cataloged.
For my roadside remembrance memorial series that is published (LensWork Issue #74 – In Passing), I am making changes as a result of improved matte papers, which have a wider tonal range and a beautiful surface. Now most of the images have not changed, but some, like the one posted with this article. The tonal hue & saturation has changed as a result of this paper, as well as my own personal perspective on the series.
So far, I have not made any additional photographs (yet) recently for this series, but it does not feel finished.
I was working on a Special Edition for this series, thinking about using Blurb publishing and they just announced that they have a new premium paper available. The current book cover looks too dated for my initial Blurb book-dummy. So I anticipate another version for a hardcover limited edition book. Then do I also update and create a second edition of the softcover as well?
Well, maybe I can finish all of the parts of what I intend for the project In Passing by the end of the year and move on to my other projects. Maybe.
Though I’ve not reached this point in photography, I can certainly understand it from the point of a software developer.
I tend to do continuous improvements to the software that I write, if allowed, when new technologies come out or when I figure out a better way to do something. There’s always room for improvement, I suppose … though it may not always be necessary.
Good luck in finishing! I’m sure that you’ll be tempted over and over again to come back and tweak. Soon, it will probably unrecognizable from its origins, but will reflect your current state. Perhaps that is why it continues to morph … following its creator.
Considering that Ernest Meissonier worked on “1807, Friedland” for nearly 15 years, and Adams was constantly updating the way his prints looked as papers and chemistry changed, I think you can drag out the process for as long as you feel improvements or adjustments need to be made…
I think the larger questions might be-
a) Is it important to you that there is a “final revision”, or are you comfortable with releasing different versions?
b) If you are ok with multiple editions, do potential clients and collectors feel the same way?
c) Is the endless pursuit of perfecting one series putting a drag on your ability to create new work?
A lot of this really depends on how much time you want to invest and where that time might be best spent… I’ve started to invest that time drinking more beer!
A somewhat tangential thought. Have you had any interaction with the families of those who’s markers you’ve photographed? That might be part of the closure of the project too.
You mentioned in another post that your images are the only records left of the markers, other than in the families painful memories.
I have only interacted with one family during the development of this series, but I doubt that any of the families know of this series.
But for me, that is not what keeps this series on-going, as the images are after the (tragic) fact. Similar to a documenatary of a horrific genocide or a tragic earthquake, but instead of photographs with broken or mutulated bodies, I have used other symbols instead. Still documentary in nature, but perhaps a bit easier to look at, and hopefully equally challenging.
But my current issue seems to be the fact I keep messing and tweaking the images with the advent of new materials and processes.