Create: The One

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I was fortunate. I came up during a time in photography that involved the wet darkroom. The darkroom was about pace, commitment, and a dizzying array of potential techniques. The darkroom was a dance. Time, temperature, mixture, agitation, experimentation. And failure, endless failure.

The idea of not printing a project or solid individual image was and is entirely foreign to me. It’s like competing for a triathlon, hammering the swim and the bike, and then decided, on a whim, not to do the run. Why bother?

Print takes on many forms for me now, outside of the wet darkroom, because although I do have access to the darkroom my health dictates I don’t spend time around chemistry. But everything I do, from the random to the long-term project is destined for print form. Both books and magazines as well as individual prints for the wall.

Print forces me to apply critical thought and to commit. What is the single best image? What is the most important image? What are the ten images that work best together, the first ending up as an image for the wall, the last ending up on the pages of a book or magazine?

Uruguay was about so many different things. Travel, friends, story, collaboration, and exploration with the idea that maybe at some point it would all adhere and become a cohesive, living breathing thing. Four of us, each on an individual mission but as part of a larger plan.

I mix my formats, using the color square for portraits and landscapes while the 35mm lays down the backbone of black and white.

At some point, no matter how hard I try to avoid doing so, I begin asking myself, “What is the single most representative image?” Doing so can hurt, it can really hurt. You begin to see the gaps in your work, the “almost” images, or the seconds just behind where the real image lived, existing only for a fraction of a second that you weren’t good enough to record.

But with enough time things become clear, they become narrow and they become the few. And then the few become the one. And then you know what will live on the wall, what will live with you on a daily basis, what will force you to tell and retell the story as friends and family cycle through. The story of the image itself.

This, for me, is photography. 

Comments 10

  1. Dano,

    Really, really enjoyed this.

    As it so happens, I showed prints from Uruguay this past weekend to a couple friends in a social distancing kind of way. A couple years ago, prior to the move from CA, I had spent time making platinum/palladium prints. There are several from Uruguay that I had chosen for the process. There was a response from them on these prints that was a combination of seeing actual prints and then knowing that they were hand made that made them engage and really look at the images more so than I expected. It was a real pleasure to tell them the story of the trip, the images and the process in making the images. And it was even more of pleasure to have the honor of them listening.

    That trip, was by far, one of my favorite trips I’ve ever taken.

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      That trip was so much fun and seems like a hundred years ago. I really like Martin and Diego and the country itself is so stuck in the back of my mind. I would love to ride my bike through Latin America and would love to really spend a longer time in Uruguay. Congrats on those prints.

    2. Thanks Dan. Yes, Diego and Martin, great guys and the hospitality they showed while in Uruguay was second to none. I want to go back as much as I want to get back to Japan, and as you know, that’s saying something.

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      I would LOVE to back to Uruguay and Japan is also high on my list. At this point, who knows when that will happen. But, happy where I am. Endless books to read.

  2. Hello, Dan. You have no idea how right you are 🙂 I started documenting the lives of my children 13 years ago, on digital, and now I have, literaly, thousands of photos. I wouldn’t even erase one BUT I do have a big problem now in deciding which ones (the best ones) to choose for my Blurb family albums. This is the point where I started to look at my photos with a critical eye while keeping in mind everything that I heard you say about editing and sequencing and ultimatly about THE ONE.

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      It’s a challenge. And sometimes, based on technique and goals, there might not be a single one but the idea of trying to find it is still worthwhile.

  3. I hope more people are making the most of this ‘lockdown’ time and are printing more and ticking off all of those things they have been meaning to do!

    Is this an example of Blurb’s new Wall Art? It looks great and a great photo to get printed in this way

    I’ve been meaning to ask you, the photo frames on the walls of the backdrop to most of your recent YouTube videos…are they your work or a mixture of collections from other photographers/artists, etc.? I was just curious…

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      Hey Paul,
      Yes, that was a canvas print. I was never a fan of canvas until I got this print. It looks great and you can design the edges of the print too. As for my house, 99% the work of other people. I think I have one piece on the wall but only because it was something that didn’t sell at a show. I think I also have some family photos but I’m not really counting those. My wife and I have been collecting work for years.

  4. Great. I wish I would have started during film. But, I didn’t. I’m being so careful not to fall into the consumerism of today’s world, fast pace throwing of meaningless images to audiences whose attention span is measured in milliseconds. Printing makes you think so much, pick your best and know your best images.

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      The darkroom was a grind. No doubt. Some hated it but it was an invaluable lesson, especially for today.

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