Having recently been in the darkroom again after a long period of absence, I was fortunate enough to have the chance to produce about 50 contact sheets of my recent work. I had quite forgotten what a thoroughly rewarding and wasteful experience this was. Rewarding in that you can clearly see what you have been doing and how you have been evolving, wasteful in that you realize most of what you have done is rubbish, and that these sheets will never be seen by anyone but you.
Which is what this video is about, I have found a series of videos by great photographers talking about their contact sheets and how they use them. This is a deeply personal insight into the work of people that we have created an image of in our minds. I think we forget that it takes a great many shots to find that truly great one, and the shots you see in the gallery or the magazine have been carefully selected from a great many shots that didn’t work. This is especially true now in the digital age, where you can just junk things that you don’t like. We rarely get to see how the photographer actually selects what they have taken, so this is a nice insight into the mind of a great photographer.
Leonard Freed (1929-2006) was an American photographer born to Jewish immigrant parents in New York. After studying arts in New York, in the 1950’s he travelled around Europe and photographed the Jewish communities that were recovering from the holocaust. working as a photojournalist, he found his direction during the sixties whilst traveling with Martin Luther King, Jr. And following the American civil rights movement. During this time he produced his book Black and White America, which became a considerable talking point during this turbulent era.
Freed Joined Magnum in 1972 and continued to work in difficult and often dangerous environments including Israel, Lebanon, Turkey. His work with the New York Police dept led to another book Police Work, published in 1980.
All in all a great photographer with a unique view on times of great upheaval and change.
Hope you enjoy this one.
I can’t wait to start making contact sheets for the very same two reasons you described. Have you heard of the new book coming out soon from Magnum called Magnum Contact Sheets? Described to provide in depth information on various Magnum photographers and their contact sheets.