About The RWA Photographic Archive
The collection of photographs taken for this project is comprised of two separate phases, black and white film shot during 2006 and 2007 and digital photographs taken between 2008 and 2014. I shot a total of of 126 rolls of film, most all of them 36 exposures a piece, for a total of well over 4,000 photographs and had them developed by a renowned photo lab in New York City. Due to the expense of all those negatives, along with contact sheets, I realized I couldn’t afford to have any prints made. When I did have a handful of shots enlarged for a small portfolio, I wasn’t thrilled with the results the lab produced at all.
It wasn’t until six years later, when I bought a high quality negative scanner at a reasonable cost and was able to review the negatives myself, then scan them individually (a process that took weeks) that I felt I knew what I had on those rolls of film. I had found relying on just a loop and tiny images on contact sheets to be frustrating and difficult to organize. I had practically written the entire set off as unusable, as nothing but experience. As the scans appeared on my monitor, I felt like I was seeing those photos for the first time. Despite my lingering regrets about having taken so long to complete this project, one of the benefits of that time having passed was my being able to take advantage of advancing digital technology, and the reduced cost for “last year’s model.”
The digital phase of my photography started in the summer of 2008, initially with isolated day trips and some advance scouting of neighborhoods. The huge expense of dealing with film and my inability to work directly with images had convinced me that I could work better, and keep my images organized in a far more intuitive manner, if I moved to using a digital camera instead. By the time I wrapped photography late in 2013, I had over 15,000 digital images in my archive. I eventually chose Lightroom as my favored program to work with, and converted the high res negative scans and raw files to digital negative format. Finally, it was all together, all in front of me, a virtual sea of images taken over a period of seven years in my life, the result of hundreds and hundreds of hours spent on the streets of New York City. Initially, it was quite overwhelming, but supremely gratifying.
When I finally got all of my images together, it was intimidating but thrilling to see the scope of what I had photographed over eight years on the streets of New York City.
The organization of my collection relies on two things, the file name of each image and a catalog I made in Filemaker Pro. In that program, I have a record of every stone face (each of which was given a number), the address where it was found, a physical description, the years I photographed it, which formats (film and/or digital) and any information I learned about the building while at that address and any memorable or notable interactions I had with passersby. When photographing I always traveled with a small notebook and took careful notes because I realized early on that getting the addresses right was crucial. I would then transcribe all the information I had collected into the Filmmaker Pro program, during the breaks I took between shooting on the streets.
Using that database and my original notes as a guide, I changed the old file names of about 15,000 images, employing a uniform system that would identify the following simply by looking at the new file name of an individual photograph - the number given to that particular face, the address where it was found, how many exposures I am likely to have of a particular framing, how many different angles I have to choose from, and also if that file was shot as black and white film, digitally, or if it was shot at night.
With all the shooting I did over the years there are only two instances where I lost my notes for a particular round of shooting and am uncertain of the exact addresses I photographed. I know the neighborhood, but not the building number. Though I’m glad it only happened twice, I can’t help feeling as though I’ve abandoned a few friends, that I let them down somehow. (see below)
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Photographs and Content by Alan Bazin © 2017