Dirty Laundry #5: Photo Process

Wednesday the 20th I took advantage of my suddenly free schedule and went round to J’s to photograph her for DL. I had been working on the concept for a while, having come up with the idea shortly after visiting her new apartment which is located near the Prospect Expressway. I had originally imagined a frustrated man throwing his ex girlfriend’s clothes onto the highway as she drives under- a full length red slip billowing in the wind. I knew of course I couldn’t throw clothing onto moving traffic but this was the imagery I started out with. As things worked out, it seemed I didn’t need a male model but instead a female one so I inverted the idea keeping the same basic concept but swapping the genders. As I contemplated the details of the shot I imagined J in giant hair curlers, a black slip and a cigarette hanging out of her mouth- a discontent wife kicking her husband out. I rustled up some mens clothing packed them in my favorite red suitcase (£15 from Caner research UK, 2007) and headed over to J’s house.

J and I caught up for a bit while I braided her hair and then we went down to the overpass. The combination of heat and lethargy had made it so that by the time we got down to the location the morning light was all but gone, but there was still a nice dappling from the trees on the side walk and I attempted to use that to get good highlights and shadows. Thinking back to a conversation Viccy and I had had about POV, I took a variety of pictures attempting to capture different perspectives. When I got home I found that there were in fact too many beautiful photos and too many options for how to compose them.

When working on which photos to put up I usually start by picking 20 out of the whole group. Then I narrow that 20 down to 10 which I lightly grade or crop in photoshop. Next I take my favorites and upload them into the DL server so that I can try different combinations on the site itself to see how they look together and what kind of story they tell. The first combination I tried was beautifully abstract but I felt that it perhaps missed some of the “evidence” that would help build a story. It was very hard to choose which way to organize the photos as the ones that were the prettiest individually did not necessarily combine well and the photos the combined most attractively were not necessarily the most powerful narratively.

In the end I decided on a compromise between the aesthetic elements and the narrative elements. By opening up multiple narrative perspectives there the photos naturally take on more variety in color, framing and various other visual elements which can make it harder to combine different pictures but I think these differences create a natural subtext that hopefully will inspire Viccy when she sits down to write.

see photographs and stories at cargocollective.com/dirtylaundry