Monday, March 23, 2009

Photo Editing 101

Robert Frank shot 767 rolls of film for the 83 images in the book The Americans. That's 83 divided by 27612 or .003 percent. He spent one year editing his work. A good photographer learns to become a good editor. The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 Rule or law of the vital few means that in any set of things (like a set of photos), a few (20 percent) are vital and many (80 percent) are considered trivial. The shorthand for the 80/20 rule is vital few / trivial many. Think of it as quality control for photographers. If you are looking for a good read, the classic book by Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values talks about the metaphysics of quality.

The Robert Frank exhibit is still at the National Gallery of Art until April 26, 2009. This is what the NGA says about The Americans.

First published in France in 1958 and in the United States in 1959, Robert Frank's The Americans is widely celebrated as the most important photography book since World War II. Including 83 photographs made largely in 1955 and 1956 while Frank (b. 1924) traveled around the United States, the book looked beneath the surface of American life to reveal a profound sense of alienation, angst, and loneliness. With these prophetic photographs, Frank redefined the icons of America, noting that cars, jukeboxes, gas stations, diners, and even the road itself were telling symbols of contemporary life. Frank's style—seemingly loose, casual compositions, with often rough, blurred, out-of-focus foregrounds and tilted horizons—was just as controversial and influential as his subject matter. The exhibition celebrates the 50th anniversary of the book's publication by presenting all 83 photographs from The Americans in the order established by the book, and by providing a detailed examination of the book's roots in Frank's earlier work, its construction, and its impact on his later art.

From Robert Frank's The Americans

1 comment:

  1. I really want to see the discussion with him tomorrow. After seeing the exhibit a few times, now I want to see the OTHER 80% of the rolls. What does that stuff look like? What's the quality of his work that he himself rejects?