You are invited to join me in taking a moment to stand in the shoes of eighteen master photographers and view the results of one important photo session by each of them. Rather than studying a solitary iconic image, you will be considering all of the images made during a single session. It is my hope that this, in a manner of speaking, allows you to join the dialogue that began in the artist’s own mind, including his or her original conception of the day’s project, which was then carried forward to his or her completed creation, as seen in the final prints.
Reunited as a complete group, the images document the timeline of the photographer’s artistic decisions during the session, often reflecting the development of his or her vision or changing approach to the subject. In most cases the related prints are not a formally ordered series or sequence intentionally created by the photographer to be a unified work of art. As a result the meaning and significance of each image is changed and enhanced when presented in the context of the whole group.It is, in fact, important to see the images taken before and after the one immediately in front of you in order to understand fully its meaning and importance. When seen together, their unity of time and place restored, these images may indeed become a different, collective work of art, revealing that each individual, separate print was only an isolated step toward a single goal: the masterpiece that lived for a day in the artist’s mind.
These groups of related images allow you, indeed invite you, to ask your own questions and form your own insights into the working methods and skills of each photographer. What is the relationship among the different images taken that day? What do these images tell us about what was happening during the session? What was the artist thinking, and what choices did the artist make? Can we decipher from the progression in the images how the artist was changing his or her approach and what the artist was going for? Was the artist successful? Was the artist happy with the day’s work?
With a little bit of practice and imagination, you can begin to feel the artist’s way of seeing, manner of moving with a camera, or intention as he or she develops a particular vision. If you can achieve that connection with the photographer, you have learned more about him or her than by viewing his or her most iconic image, seeing all his or her greatest hits in a book, or reading about his or her life, photographic philosophy, and place in the history of photography. I hope you will enjoy a deeper connection with some of the artists represented in this exhibition by their fine day’s work.
Michael R. Whalen