Topic: grids (2 posts)


This post is about making grids of my photographs.

In the 90's in photography it was becoming possible to do things that either were impossible before or very difficult. I could make an enlarged contact sheet in darkroom analog days, and I did, but it was hard to do well and the shooting discipline was acute for one blown frame in a roll of 36 exposures could ruin the whole concept.The key then was that I already had an 8 x 10  enlarger so a whole roll of 36 exposure negatives of 35 mm film could fit up there in the negative stage and be projected down onto a big piece of photo paper. Same was true for a roll of 120 mm film.

I grew to believe this was a viable creative approach. This wasn't breaking new ground particularly as many had done this before me but I felt I could make a contribution to what others done and lend my own voice. When things began to switch over to digital I could scan, move things around, resequence and even shoot many rolls of film to end up with something that looked like it was from one roll.  This was before the days of being able to shoot digitally. At the time I could compile a roll of 120mm film from several rolls into a single grid of squares. I thought the rewards were worth the effort.

   Middletown, RI

By 2002 or 2003, inkjet printers were getting better so it was possible to realize these as large prints, 48 x 40 inches or so.

Barn, Moscow, Idaho

What was this about, this putting together of frames to make a grid or mosaic? Why'd I do it? This is a little difficult for me to explain in a clear way. Very much like the series work I believed there was an underlying need to show more, to explain more, to encompass a whole or at least "my" whole of a place or an area. I believed there was a story to tell, a concept to show. And this form of presentation had me thinking differently. The whole roll, or the idea, was right out in front. No turning pages or flipping prints to see them in sequence. Not a story to tell in a conventional way at all. One of my early problems was that I wanted the viewer to read these grids in the sequence I'd set them up in, from upper left to lower right. But I could no less prescribe that than any other reading of my work.

Sockanosset School for Boys, Cranston, RI (print is 54 x 41 inches)

I learned to let go of that overcontrolling definition of the work and to enjoy them as a whole. What helped me with that was to see these photographs through others' eyes. They would roam around them and make their own connections, not necessarily the connections I had made.

What I loved was the relationships that were made from the right, to the left to the top and to the  bottom. All sorts of wonderful connections and accidents would happen. Or these large pieces would end up as puzzles to unravel as in the Sockanosset grid.

I made them in 35mm too. 35 was never a major format for me, but much of my work in black and white infrared from the 70's and 80's was made that way, and it seemed natural to expand some of those rolls into enlarged contact sheets:

I shot this roll in the summer, 1974. It was on the island of Chappaquidick at a place called Cape Pogue, off of Martha's Vineyard. I held the camera in my right hand and a small framelesss mirror in my left. This was really just playing with light. I made the print 30 years later. The final framed piece is five feet across.

This ones's called Red Wash, Utah.

A warehouse under construction in Pennsylvania.

Migrant Worker's Shacks in California

Aerials from Washington

This last one from Botswana, Africa.

There are countless others.

Hypothetical: there you are, camera in hand. What have you just shot? What will come after this frame? If you're shooting a grid with 12 pictures in it, what will you shoot in the fourth frame to put it to the right of the first frame? Will the wires in that one connect to the wires in this one? What about the distance? Have you been drifting closer or farther way as you photograph? Is the light changing? Does it matter? This gets mind bogglingly complex very fast.

Am I still making them? Sometimes. It's definitely in my toolbox of approaches I like and feel I've used with good result in the past.  These days with a RIP like Image Print (which I use) I can get the files shot ready to print and just click and drag them into place on the page. What I wouldn't have given to have that process when I was taping strips of six frame 35 mm film to a glass negative career in rows. What a pain that was.You may have noticed that the ones here are all showing grids made from photographs that came from film, the negatives being scanned and then inkjet printed. Have I been making grids from subjects shot digitally? Not so much. But I have been making diptychs and triptychs using the same premise.

Like so:


Topics: grids

Permalink | Posted January 8, 2016


Grids, multiples, tiles, mosaics: I am sure there are many other terms for putting pictures next to pictures on one page as well. I started to make enlarged contact sheets in the early nineties as I had an 8 x 10 inch enlarger so could put a whole roll of 35mm negatives (36 pictures) in the enlarger at the same time. I made the ones I am showing here around 2004 when I was newer to inkjet printing and I was fascinated with the possibilities inherent in placing bunches of my pictures in rows all on one large print. 

I made these in two ways. One, by assembling things I'd already shot into a pattern and the second, by shooting intentionally for the grid I would subsequently make. 

At times they were simply enlarged contact sheets, like this one from one roll of 120 mm film. Typically they were quite large, as in 40 by 30 inches or so.

This one needs some explanation: A good friend lived near here and these buildings had been part of a school for wayward boys in Cranston, RI called Sockanosset School for Boys (School) in the early 1900's. The site had been abandoned for years. My friend had noticed that crews were clearing all the brush around these three buildings and suggested I take a look. As it turned out, there was a mall going in but the three buildings were slated for renovation and would be used for offices. I shot them in 120mm making the left frame the front of each building, then photographed them from the left side, then the right and then the back. The subsequent print was about 5 by 4 feet. Now the first building on the upper left has a Joe's Diner restaurant in it. Go figure.

I made a few of these also, aerials from the wheat fields I photograph in Southeastern Washington.

This above was from a trip to Africa with my sister after her husband died of ALS. He had always wanted to go and asked her to take the trip and bring me along after he died. We did.

These are from a row of shacks on a beach in RI. For awhile, if there was anything in a row or a group I would photograph it like this, working to make it into a grid. Sometimes it would work out, sometimes it wouldn't.

I was wrestling with getting a whole series of pictures up on a print in one step,  consolidating many and allowing different interpretations of the way though them or the path someone could take. I called this one "Red Wash" and it was from Utah.

This was from rural Pennsylvania, a huge new Butler-type warehouse building with no windows, just sitting there, wide open. I shot several rolls of film and the print is about 80 inches wide.

Fact of life: shoot early or late in the day with a wide angle lens on a sunny day with it behind you and what have you got to deal with? Your own shadow. This was my attempt to put it in the picture.

So what's happening with this way of working now? Nothing. As I've been looking at these while working on this post (and searching through past years of work) to find them they addressed a concern of mine at the time to communicate a whole assembled in one place rather than a whole derived from composite parts as traditional series work was for me. To see a full series up at once is a very different thing than seeing individual images as prints in a portfolio or as pages in a book.

The years I was making these were hugely transitional for as me as an artist for this was when digital capture really wasn't good enough but scans could be very good. Inkjet printing was also now mature enough to be able to make really good prints.

My friend and colleague Keith Johnson works in grids a great deal and makes fascinating and beautiful pictures in this way. I have enjoyed watching his pictures evolve and change as he works to interpret and invent in this approach to making photographs.

Topics: grids

Permalink | Posted December 5, 2013