Monday, March 1, 2010

piecing together other people's lives

This was yesterday's project--my attempt to articulate, or to piece together, images from other people's live. (click here to view larger image.)

Well, technically speaking, this was going to be Thursday's, Friday's or Saturday's project as I've been stuck at home sick. I put the project off, in part, because I didn't want to cut the roll of negatives that came with a lot of expired (and mostly unexposed) film I recently bought. Making matters worse, the negative strip was/is VERY curly, making scanning the images as well as cutting the negatives into more manageable strips really difficult.

I have no idea what kind of camera was used for these images. I was hoping to put a rough date to the images based on the type of film used for these but all that appears on the edges of the film itself are the words "eastman" "safety" and "plus x." There are (were) 20 exposures on the roll.

I had played around with window-scanning some of these images before I got the idea to create a contact sheet for the roll. My first plan was to place all 20 images on a 4x5 contact sheet, keeping the images in the order they appeared on film. As I started scanning in each image, I decided that I wanted to do more by way of interpreting what I was seeing or understanding about these images. I first decided to jettison from the project the two images that were taken with a portrait/vertical orientation, and decided to create the project with 15 images--five rows with three images in each row. With the first version, the narrative began with what I call "the farm scenes" (see images in the bottom two rows of final version) as they were the first images that appeared on the strip of negatives. The final three images on the strip were actually of the woman in the garden.

As I scanned each of the images, I started clustering them in threes, thinking more about how I wanted this visual narrative to begin, proceed and end. At this point, I had decided not to follow the order of the images on the strip of negatives. I debating beginning the narrative with an image (one that doesn't appear here) of the property and the driveway at a great distance. My thought was to approximate visually the idea of driving up to the house, getting a closer view of the house and drive with each image placed in the first row. Then, with the second row, the viewer would enter the backyard, meeting the woman there, etc.

One of my favorite images on the strip was the lamp image--the only indoor image on the roll, by the way. (For what it's worth, this is my other fav image from the strip.) I really didn't want to leave this one out of the narrative, so I decided to start the narrative indoors with a through-the-window shot. Following this, the narrative would move around to various locations outside where viewers would "meet" so to speak the people in the images. Technically-speaking, the lamp shot might have been placed before the sequence in the second row since the window appears to overlook what I've (perhaps incorrectly?) been calling the backyard. But because the lamp image is darker than the others (never mind that it appears to be framed), it didn't look good place in the middle of the narrative. My sense was that the narrative had to begin or end with the indoor window shot. And because I really liked the way the final three images in the narrative fit together, I didn't want to compromise that, so the window shot was placed at the start of the narrative.

With the first row of images, the viewer begins inside and then moves outside to view the house and driveway. The second row features the woman in the yard. Here I decided to echo the trajectory of the house/drive images--as the narrative proceeds, we get a closer/better view of the woman in the yard. The final image in that row (the one where the woman appears to be holding something up) I also interpreted as a pointing gesture. As though she were saying, "and look who is here." Corny, I know, but it was a way of segueing to the man-with-car image. With the third row, I reverse the trajectory or movement used in the first two rows, using instead the idea of increasing distance and elimination: We see the man and his car, then just the car, then just the drive and garage.

With the next row I transition to what I'm understanding to be the other part of the property, beginning with images of the cows and the landscape more generally. I wanted to end the narrative with images of people associated with that landscape or part of the property. I went back and forth on the placement of the final image, of the young girl. I didn't know whether I wanted to feature her right before the image of the two guys (in this way, the narrative would begin and end with my two favorite images on the strip) or place her at the end of the narrative. I chose to end the narrative with her, with her image. I did this, in part, because I liked the way the final image in the fourth row segued into the tractor shot that appears at the start of the fifth row. But I also ended the narrative with her because it is this photo--while not named here as one of my favorites--is perhaps the most haunting for me. Otherwise put, if I could learn more about any of the characters who appear here, I would choose to know more of her story.

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