My father was a great photographer. After many years as my fathers photography subject, I picked up the camera also. Photography was one of those things that really connected us. As a photographer he was jealous when I got into Brooks Institute of Photography, but as a father he was also very very proud. He took many photography classes. We spent weekends trecking around with our cameras. When he retired his photography was his job. To say that he took thousands of photos is an understatement.
When my father passed away five years ago, we were faced with boxes and boxes of his photography. We wondered what we'd do with all of his work. I assume my father had the same problem, otherwise there wouldn't have been that many boxes for us to go through.
Being the photographer of the family, I was left in charge of this task. He was a film photographer. He'd not yet made it to digital, so not only did I have prints to go through but also negatives. It was daunting looking at box after box of photos and realizing I'd have to look at every one.
It made me think of one of my teachers in school, Ralph Clevenger. One major piece of advice he had for us was editing. He had told us during one class, that organizing and editing down our photography is a very important task. Also, a difficult one. Most of my classmates and I had binders full of negatives. He told us to go through all of those binders and get rid of all the negatives that just didn't cut it. You don't need a full roll of negatives when you only have one image that is a keeper.
One day I decided that this was something I would do. It was so hard to scrutinize all of my work and actually throw out negatives that weren't worth keeping! I remember spending many hours and the better part of a weekend reviewing every photo I had. My three roommates walked through proclaiming how brave I was. I think that for many of us photographers, there is a part of us that feels that our negatives are us. It not only shows our history as a photographer but the more negatives we have, the better we are...right? At the end of my big editing project, I felt like I knew right where I stood at a photographer. Not only did I get rid of all the mediocre work that just took up space, I knew I now had one binder full of strong images.
Now I had to do this to my father's work. I've officially finished going through all the prints. I have two small photo boxes full of my father's strongest work, fun stuff and photos of my family...one box for me and one for my sister. I think the negatives will take quite a bit longer to get through and maybe a bit harder to let go of.
I still think about my father every time I take out my camera. I know he's proud of my photography and my business. Now I have this great little box of photos to look through and enjoy any time I want.