first editing of a new project

contact sheet

The first edit of any project is an important one because it's the first time I actually see what I'm working with and how interesting it actually is as opposed to how interesting it was in my mind when I shot it. I don't work in a linear or sequential way. Over the course of a series I'll do many cycles of shoot-edit-print-selection, but the first time I see the pictures has always been the one most decisive for the series. At this point I can decide to stop shooting the project or take it in a new direction.

I'll develop my backlog, contact print the rolls and start noting the interesting frames.
The first look at the contacts is usually a pretty depressing affair, most shots look nothing like they appeared in the viewfinder and so much seems to be straight up junk. "Interesting" at this step is a very loose definition. This is a collection phase, not unlike shooting and I try to cast a wide net at first. I'm looking for patterns I may have missed while shooting, in subjects, composition etc. I end up keeping about a third of the shots I have.

Once I have my selection I need to take a closer look at them. I've used two different ways to do this and haven't really settled on one method. I can either make small 5x7" work prints or do quick low resolution scans on the computer. One will save me time, the other money. Either way, now I have a slightly better idea of what I'm working with.

I'll usually collect similar shots together and start a process of elimination to keep the most interesting and those that fit with the others. This is a more selective step but I still have quite a bit of material to work with. This is the initial batch from which I'll make all other selections later. Any future additions will go through the same collection stage, join this set and the whole will then again go through a selection stage.

This is a naturally slow decisional part. I keep a long list, to consult later and fish out things I overlooked, and a short list that I consider to be the actual selection. At this point I might also write a project statement. It doesn't need to be very precise, it's a personal guideline that acts as a reference in future decisions. If the direction of the series changes, the statement usually follows and not the other way around.

I'll keep the pictures easily accessible so that I'm often looking at them. Over time, those that don't fit in or aren't as strong tend to stand out and they're taken out of the selection, back into the long list or out completely.