5/20/08

My edit of Justin Visnesky's work: thoughts

I'm finally getting around to posting my edit of Justin Visnesky's work for my Pick 5 challenge. I actually ended up with two edits, which I talk about in detail below. I previously wrote about his arrangement of my work in an entry that you can read here. I'm going to put the actual images in two separate posts above so that they can be referenced on their own.

First, I have to say that editing someone else's photographs was in many ways very freeing. It's not that it was easy--as is obvious from my last post about Justin's work I'm a huge fan, so I did feel a certain pressure in wanting to do the images justice. But there was no baggage, so to speak, in my approach to the individual photos. With my own work it can sometimes be hard to truly see because I know the entire story and context behind the shots, but with Justin's work it required less effort to simply sit with the pictures.

Regarding edit #1, there was one image called "Gram and Ava" from his blog that I was struck by and knew I wanted to use. I love how you can see the patches of scalp on both of their heads, and the way they're looking out at the water together--it's so tender and speaks to me of aging and loss and memory. But I couldn't seem to get it to fit with my other favorites; something about the quality of the light and the overall color balance made it stand out, and it didn't feel quite right within the narrative context I was being pulled toward. So I decided to do two edits, one which incorporated my overall favorites, and another that was inspired by "Gram and Ava."

Coincidentally I found out from Justin after I sent him my grouping that the first two images from my "Gram" edit were taken at her house, and the last was shot when his niece Ava was visiting. Apparently Justin has been working on an ongoing project where he's compiling images as a visual document of his grandmother and her surroundings, and it's amazing to me that I was drawn to put all of those photographs together without knowing the context. There must be an undercurrent in the pictures that translates into a certain intensity which makes the them naturally fit together.

It reminds me of an interview with Jeff Wall that I clipped from Time Out a while back and taped in my journal. He says:
"...there are a lot of things one senses without actually seeing. Let’s imagine that you’re working on a project and you have four people in it. Then you realize that two aren’t necessary, and you take them out. The two that remain are now different. We’ll never know what the difference is, but it affects what they do. So there’s likely a quality that’s been transmitted into the final work, caused by an absence the viewer will never know is there. But it will be sensed in the nature of the picture. "
I consider myself pretty down-to-earth, but I find myself pulling a metaphysical component out of Wall's statement. Sometimes I get drawn into that wondrous feeling of recognizing that there's so much we don't know. I've had strange musings where I ruminate on the idea that the energy I'm feeling when I take a picture somehow gets transmitted into the pixels of a shot as I'm freezing the moment. Ever since I got a new camera (a Canon 5D) I feel like the vibrational harmony between this particular piece of equipment and my vision is so much more in tune than my with previous Nikon, and the pictures show it. But then I'm a huge skeptic as well and can just as easily recognize that it's probably only the lens. As my husband James likes to say, everyone is full of contradictions. But I digress...

For edit #2 of Justin's work I assembled my favorites through my usual process of shuffling until a comfortable sense of narrative emerged, one that I hope conveys the sense of melancholy that I find so compelling in his imagery. He had mentioned that he found his edit of my work both heavy and hopeful, and I felt the same when I was arranging his images. There's a quality of waiting and longing that really gets me in the gut.

Sending off this grouping to Justin led to an interesting discussion about how we as photographers read our images and how others see them differently. I didn't know the title of the first shot ("Last Burrito from Jasoom") when I chose it, so in my mind I'd created an entire story about a wife who had made a sandwich for her husband to take to work, which then filtered into the rest of the images as a sense of that person being absent. It turns out my read was completely different from the actual context: it was a burrito from one of Justin and his wife's favorite Mexican places that closed; they went there on its last night and their favorite waiter signed Justin's to-go plate. It just shows how looking at work that's not your own can bring an unexpectedly new read to an image. I must say, I like both stories.

I should also mention that Justin has a 15 month-old son, so I must give kudos to the fact that he's an art-making father.

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