Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Robert Frank's Ridiculous Ratios

Jack Kerouac writes about Robert Frank in his introduction to The Americans, 'You got eyes'. As much as I love and admire Frank's seminal book of photos and appreciate its influence as an examination of postwar America (it was shocking on its release), I was just reading how Frank took some 28,000 photos in a two-year trip across the States. 83 photos got selected. What a nightmare editing job!

To me this seems a ridiculous ratio. That's one decent photo every 337. The average ratio for a photo journalist (in the old days) was one good picture per roll (36 photos).

But one every 337 – that's ridiculous. Anyone could do that. I could do that. A blind person could do that. Give a 4-year old a camera and you'll guarantee at least one every 337 photos will be great.

Still, at least it was before digital photography – with film you had to think a bit more about a shot as each one was costing money. Nowadays, most people going away for a week in Spain seem to come back with about 28,000 photos – with possibly somewhat less than 83 decent ones.

What we've learnt in the last week: we're still not allowed to watch Cocksucker Blues without being in the same room as Robert Frank.

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