Photoediting: Brian Storm messes with my mind

I’ve been working with the Alexia Foundation. They just launched a new site and they brought me in to get their 21 years of archives into the site. In terms of titles, I’m photo editor/content manager of their material. As well, I am their social media manager.

They have beautiful, beautiful work on a huge variety of important social justice issues. It’s been tremendous to me immersed in these vast archives. Particularly thrilling to me has been seeing so much film work. A 21 year span of work naturally includes at least 10 years of work on film. When I first reached that point in the archives, I fell in love again – with photojournalism and grain. So much beautiful grain. Go look at their site. It is wonderful.

As photo editor, my job was to select 10 images out of what the photographer had submitted. The film candidates tended to have smaller selections – 12 maximum. The digital projects – some as many as 100, and an average of 16-20. Of these, I had to select 10. That was hard.

For the home page, the Alexia Foundation’s photo advisory board weighed in on what the representative images should be for the most recent projects. Brian Storm selected an image for each. This is where he messes with my mind.

A number of the images, I hadn’t even included in my edit. I was looking to tell a story. I was looking for the image to say something, to explain something. To be in focus and have a clear focal point and hopefully have some layers. He selected fuzzy, blurry photos. I don’t know what to do with these. I don’t know how to deal with abstract, fuzzy, grainy images. I don’t know how to say they are good or bad. Is intention important?

When I started in photography, way back in my Chicago days, one of my earliest projects was a series of double negatives. I didn’t plan them out. I liked the chance element of them. I liked my mistakes and I liked what would happen when I had way too much red or green or blue in one of my color prints.

But photojournalism has these rules and structure ingrained in my mind. I don’t know how to let the chance element in. It does take guts to put something that seems technically wrong in one’s selection. Is that where personal vision comes in?

For Brian, maybe he has already seen all of the perfect images. Thus, the ones that are different and abstract appeal to him. They represent something unique that he hasn’t seen before. I don’t know how to get to this point in seeing and I feel a little inadequate for not being able to see this way.