Update 1: 29.04.17
Update 2: 06.04.17
Update 3: 13.05.17
Over the past two years, I have acquired some experience in photographing from Singapore bustling cityscapes to Iceland’s snowy mountainous landscapes. I have taken a wide variety of landscape photographs and I know what I look for in an image. It comes as no surprise to me that I have developed the eye to select the image for processing and I know how to pick the best images out of the batch after every photo shoot and give it a narrative context when I publish on my facebook page.
About curating my Images
However, one thing I still struggle today was to curate my photographs into a series. All the while I have been doing was to curate my images into the sort of a-photo-a-day thing and sorting them into a series was something which requires more time and effort. A lot of advice I have had was that I do have a good collection of images and I needed to narrow it down much more. Cutting down from 50 to 9 or 10 images. I found this to be extremely difficult, because of these challenges:
- For these familiar places (in Singapore or locations I often passed by), I usually have a particular approach, from concept to post process. I would have formulated a particular approach in my head and only capture it that way. Hence, each image was created visually strong because there was an aesthetic direction. To cut them down would take a considerable amount of time to think through, depending on what factor or element I’m looking for.
- For these unfamiliar places (usually locations I’ve visited for my first time), it would be difficult to use the first approach. To give it a different context would be more challenging since I take these photos because these scenes were of an interest to me in the first place. I would polish the images first and pick later. To fit them into a different context just doesn’t do any justice to the greater amount of images I have taken in the first place.
- The fact that we are being asked to narrow down our images to a top few selection and fit them into a series, but then what outlet could these “unselected” images end up in? Is there a platform to showcase them?
As I brood about curating my images for my portfolio works, I realise that there are actually different ways I can go about in curating them for different mediums. I guess the important thing was not to show every single image in every single medium but to strategically choose which images could go into which medium. For example, I would select certain images for large prints and certain images for postcards, etc.
Hence in this post, I discuss my thoughts and developmental process in curating my images for different platforms, including photo competition.
For portfolio websites, images on the homepage need to be the best of the best. It needs to represent what I love doing as well as the services I can do. At some point, I struggled with this because I have images that fall between commercial and fine art spectrum. The images I submitted for BA3a was a strong portfolio of images I did, but not all of them were suitable for my website homepage. Some advice was that they should be a coherent series, but I argued that if I were a commercial photographer, I need to show as many skills and service as I can. Moreover, my photographs were visually strong as a single image with narrative context. It was difficult to string them together as a series since I have a particular style, a style that was native to me prior to my university enrolment.
In the end, the way I decided the images that best represents me to be put on the website were based on these factors:
- That more of my images were leaning towards the “fine art” side, but I wanted to be a commercial photographer, specialising in landscape, travel.
- I have a particular style of vibrant colours and structural elements (images that I was exploring a different direction of would not be considered)
- I’m looking for that element of detail over the horizon.
Hence, images that did not meet these criteria were not put up.
The challenge of choosing images for my portfolio prints was that it has to represent me and my photographic style. Initially, I tried fitting them into a series, but I didn’t feel it worked out well. “Pandora’s Box” and “Allenmanstretten” were examples that I could fit my images into a series but my native style was not reflected well. This took me a while to figure out the element I am looking for. But eventually, I abandoned the idea of fitting them into a series and pick images based on my measurement of strong visual impact.
Since I will be based in Singapore after graduation, I naturally picked three images from my pre-enrolment to the university course that best represents me. The rest were images I have captured over the many locations I have visited over the past two years. The first collection, as one might call a series, is one that is true to my native style: vibrant colours and high detail elements. The second collection was less vibrant and more of the opposite direction I have explored over the past two years of my course. Other images that were somewhere in between were not impactful enough and did not make it into my top list of images for portfolio prints.
I initially want to print all my thumbnail proofs as postcards. I figured that since I shoot a lot, it made more sense to me to make them into postcards and sell them away if not needed than to print the whole bulk just for the sake of photo proofs. That would be quite a waste of money. So I laid out my images which I thought were postcard-worthy.
After visiting a few of the print companies, I eventually found Saxon Print, who was able to produce what I need. However, the catch was that the minimum requirement was eight copies of 16 unique images for almost a hundred quid. Due to this limitation, I now have to reconsider instead, the images for postcards.
This became my top selection for postcards. I have selected 9 images that were not from the portfolio print collection with a mixed of images and sort of categorised them into four quadrants. Another reason I choose this way was because I could to sell them away.
- Top left quadrant were of cityscape images.
- Top right quadrant were images of mountainous locations.
- Bottom right quadrant was more of non-landscape images that were more experimental and
- The bottom left quadrant were landscape images that didn’t quite make it into my portfolio collection.
After discussing with James Smith on 1 to 1 tutorials, I eventually changed the bottom right quadrant and settled for this arrangement.
Online Store prints
Images that sell were of a different entirety to picking images with strong visual elements. One criterion for picking images to sell was that it has to have enough details to look good on prints.
AOP Student photo Competition
For the student category in the AOP photo competition, there were three main categories that we could choose to submit: landscape, still life, people. strangely there were single images and no series. I looked at past year winners and wanted to wait for the AOP Open Category, but it would be too late by then. I had a few contenders for submission, namely pandora’s Box and Rough Cut. Again, I struggled a bit in defining where my submitted images should end up in.
Pandora box was a series and it could be defined as landscape, or still life, depending on the perspective. The Rough Cut was more experimental and more towards landscapes. The crucial thing for me was to put my images strategically and not to put all my eggs in one basket, as to put all of them into landscape category and hoping one of them would come through. that would be quite a waste of money. Instead, considering that it was individual images submission, I could spread out my photos and include portraiture images as well.
It was a tough decision in choosing what images to send for competition. I also didn’t want to send in a proper landscape as many of past years entries looked more like the experimental types. In the end, I submitted two images for ‘Places’, two images for ‘Things’, and one for ‘People’. I don’t know how it would turn out against the other entries, but I’m just entering to try my luck out. Five images, £40 for the gamble.
The email finally came and I didnt get selected for the AOP student exhibition. I was a little disheartened by the unfortunate news that my works were not good enough though I am quite curious what kind of images got through. Perhaps I was too naive to think about my choice of images. Perhaps those proper landscape images might have been a better choice. But anyway, i dont wanna let it affect my concentration. Let’s move on.
Free Range Exhibition
My initial proposal for the Free Range exhibition was to exhibit a large good one. I prepared a series of images and let them choose one image that they thought could be the one. Instead, they advised that it would be better for me to exhibit more images. In the end, this was the order of images they proposed.
The main reason I find this a difficult process was because although my market will eventually be in Singapore, I am submitting my works for a British audience which have a different emphasis in photography. The dilemma was that if I select my works one way, it wouldn’t work the other way. Should I choose one side or should I choose both sides? My solution is to find the flexibility in both worlds.
Curating images was a good exercise as it trained me to be much more critical about my selections of works through countless revisions and constant self-analysis, as well as advice from others. Identifying the problems early meant I have more time to figure out a solution. I now know how certain images fit together in different contexts based on the certain elements I need to look for and understand why some don’t fit well. Yet the skill of rearranging the flow of images are another area I need to hone and of course, this takes years of experience.