Hack Job

dec05d-29

For the past week or two I've been banging on the New Black and White Photo Pool.

The group photo pool was started back in August and I kept tabs on it for a while... removing pictures I felt didn't follow its (completely subjective) charter:

Black and White is the oldest form of picture-making. It has been said that these are the true tones of photography, from the white light of hope to the black of despair.

This group is about finding new blood in old pitch. Instead of Edward Weston, think Laurence Demaison; instead of Ansel Adams, think Arno Minkkinen; instead of Steichen, think: for yourself.

This is a public group and the group pool is actively moderated — part of the group's ambition is to showcase a concentration of great, memorable black and white images, so don't be surprised if casual black and white snaps — or even some pretty good shots — disappear from the pool spontaneously. High pool volume isn't required.

The "high volume" part got lost as the number of group members swelled from five to almost 400. The pool, which I had imagined might contain one or two hundred photos, had grown to close to 3800 by the time I tried to re-examine it in December. So I rolled up my sleeves, got out the trimmers, and waded into the bramble.

The first prunes were easy: puppies, wide-eyed grandchildren, the back-of-peoples-heads street photos, and for some mysterious reason many, many pictures of empty park benches (by many different photographers). Then started the deeper clear-cutting, the removal of Merely Good photos — the ones careful cribbed from John Hedgecoe manuals; the craggy mountaintops with just the exactly prescribed tonal range from a few pixels pure black to a few pure white; the backlit anonymous figures leaving long shadows on the city concrete; the Perfect Compositions of bare trees, the 100%-perfectly mannered Holga snaps...

At the moment, the pool is down to around 1000 photos, and I'm feeling much, much happier about it. It still contains a little of something for many different B&W tastes, but having it pared-down to 1/4 size makes a huge difference in the experience of pool browsing. At this point I feel confident that anyone can point to any page in the pool, randomly, click "view as slide show," and whatever couple of dozen photos come up will likely all be worth your while to view.

(Possible exception: the front page can randomly and suddenly fill with banal shots, assuming I haven't edited them in the last, say, four hours. Such is a curse of flickr.)

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