A requirement of my contract with The Evergreen State College was a twenty-image essay of photo selections from Spain. Creating cohesive photo essays is my greatest challenge as a photographer and something I struggle with mentally, emotionally, and physically. Seriously, for real. Because it’s easy to take single image after single image, day after day, year after year… forever! This has been my M.O. as a photographer since I was given my first camera and why now at age thirty-seven I am adrift at large in a vast sea of aimlessly-taken photography.
Knowing I would have to throw myself a life raft if I wanted full credit for the quarter, I signed up for a street photography workshop in Barcelona with Spanish documentary photographer, Mingo Venero, who would be discussing this very thing - how to make a sentence using only photography. I wrote a blog post about it back in October which you can read about here.
One thing you might notice about that post is that it contains too many images. And that’s generally my biggest Life Problem As A Photographer. Just… way, way too many photos. If you don’t identify as a photographer yourself you might not see this as a problem, and you might even say something like hey… better too many than too few, right?? But whilst I fundamentally agree that too many photos is better than too few… I also invite you to contemplate for a moment my recent task of narrowing six-thousand-some-odd photos from my time in Spain into a twenty-photo gallery that visually makes sense to anybody other than me. From six-thousand to TWENTY. And just for the record, I take a lot of really weird photos. And I’m sorry to say it but I do not feel any more savvy at creating cohesive photo essays than I did three months ago, despite the help from a professional like Mingo Venero.
That said, I tackled this assignment more methodically than I have with others in the past. I started by creating five file folders: Catalonia, Andalucia, Diarios de Perros, A Poop and a Paw Print, and Portraits in Nature. I spent about ten hours scrolling through my photos from Spain and moving photos into their corresponding folders. I repeated the process again and again until I had roughly one hundred photos between two folders. When organizing a gallery you typically want to display either black and white photography or color photography but not black and white photos with color photos, so I chose only from my black and white photography. Also because I have a lot more of it. If you want to see some examples of my color photography all lumped together but not making a cohesive essay, check out my post, fotografia de colores.
After two days of agony I had thirty-something photos in one file and was experiencing the sort of visual overstimulation that is the reason why professional photographers tend to be introverted and cranky.
I then did what any school teacher does who has a strong sense of self-preservation and divided my classroom into groups of twos & threes: three Lunas, three Cathedrals, three Beaches, three Donkeys, three Streets, three Dunes, three Self-Portraits, two Horses and two Dogs, so that with the Misfits sent on cafeteria duty I had a total of twenty photos from Spain plus five for wiggle room. Five and Twenty. Not bad, eh??
My sponsor will require me to delete some of my images. Not just the five extras but maybe half of the entire gallery. And I will squirm in my seat and sweat like he’s asked me to forfeit the very appendages of my body but unlike chopping off fingers, this process is good for me artistically. It forces me to consider which images are strong in their meaning without captioning. The importance of this is the difference between documentary vs snap-shot photography.
The following five-and-twenty photos were taken in a variety of locations throughout Spain in the months of October and November 2018. The locations (but not explanations) are included in captions. This gallery is not a compilation of my favorite photos from Spain… but rather, a representation of my experience of being in Spain. I consider photography my emotional interpretation of the world I see, expressed visually. I therefore included portraiture, and self-portraiture, in my interpretation of such a beautiful country.