The drawer of contemplation
There are two reactions that I frequently have in response to my own ‘just made’ prints. One is an excited feeling that I have ‘done good’, the other a sense of deflated dissatisfaction. In both cases, I often look back with a feeling that my initial thoughts were wrong and that the intervening time has given me a more realistic or accurate perspective. Initial excitement turns out to be premature, and, conversely, deflation is replaced with more affection and admiration. To put it more simply, things are either better or worse than I originally thought. Not in all cases of course, but in enough to be noteworthy.
It is the time and the distance on the work that is of critical importance here. Enter the metaphorical (or real, if it suits you) ‘drawer of contemplation’. This is the place you are going to put your work ‘on hold’ to avoid making a snap judgement. It is more than a metaphor, because you do need some time physically away from the print so as to refresh your vision and obtain a visual and mental distance. Coming back to the print (no less than a week I would say), you are in a much more objective position and far less ‘close’ than you were when you made it.
Not only does this make you a better judge of your own work, but it can help to avoid that very contemporary pitfall and temptation of immediate - and sometimes, unfortunately, regrettable - media sharing. Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, et al, are at all times hungry for novelty. We experience a huge pressure as creatives to play up to that hunger and share work with unsustainable regularity. This suits the medium, but maybe not so much us as photographers, who need proper distance and time to evaluate what we do. If we are lucky, we will have a critical friend who will appraise our work with honesty before we take it to a wider public.
The drawer of contemplation gives you the option to put stuff away (maybe for future thought) or, equally, to pull stuff out that might otherwise have not been granted the reprieve.