Gone Like the Evening Light

June 4, 2013  |  Personal, Photography craft


I spent a little time this week rummaging around in my Lightroom catalog, and saw this image with fresh eyes. It is from my visit to Venice in February 2011. Something about the evening light makes it look different from almost everything else I shot there, and I like it. There is a mystery about the scene that appeals to me.

This most recent wander through the archive was inspired by a book I just finished reading: The Creative Life in Photography by Brooks Jensen. This was an important read for me right now; I have underlined passages and there are stars and arrows in the margins. I’ll be referring back to it often.

It finally made me really consider the question of why I make photographs. Why do I spend such considerable time at this pursuit? My answers become more layered as I develop my voice, but one element has been consistent from the beginning: I want to leave a trace. My photographs might be a way for future generations of my family to learn what I saw, what I felt, who I was.

Currently I have over 40,000 images in my Lightroom catalog. That includes projects, assignments, events, vacation pictures, family shots, the junk, and the keepers. While I have a “system” of file names, keywords and rankings to help me find things, anyone else would just encounter image overload. Truth is, when I’m gone my images will stay locked in their hard drives until technology changes and they are lost for good. That makes me sad.

So I was intrigued when Jensen introduced the idea of a folio as a way to present a small, specific body of work. He defines a folio as “a collection of 5-20 loose prints, enclosed in an art paper cover, typically exploring a single theme, idea, or place.” You can see what he means here.

Creating folios of past work would require that I sharpen my editing and curating skills until only the strongest few images, and perhaps some defining or explanatory text, comprise the finished product. It’s unlikely that the image at the top of the post will ever go out beyond this blog. But it might very well be included in a folio called My Favorite 11 Images From 2011. That would give it a life it would never have, buried in my Lightroom catalog.

And going forward, the folio structure might actually shape the projects I choose to pursue and complete. That’s an exciting thought. I like telling stories with multiple images. Of course I’d love for them to find an audience in the wider world. But there is something about this elegant, contained format that challenges me to fill it with the strongest images I can produce, so that I leave something beautiful (and finished) behind.

So how about you? How do you like to present your photographs? Web only? Photo books? Framed art on the wall? Gallery shows? What do you think about this folio idea?


  1. I do love this photograph Dorothy, so much in here that makes me want to linger and that poses questions. A mystery as you say. The other reason is that it’s not your typical Venice image–it’s something more, deeper and that is intriguing to me. Maybe you will find some other sleepers as you go through your catalog and find enough you feel can go into a portfolio. I’d love to see you put that together.

  2. Thank you, Sabrina. I’m really intrigued by this folio concept, but then I run up against procrastination and perfectionism. I’ll have to re-read that chapter. He’s a smart guy, that Brooks Jensen. :-)

  3. I recently created two folios, and I found it really rewarding. Creating your own art paper covers is potentially hard and/or expensive, but I went the cheap and easy way and bought them from http://danecreekfolios.com/ (he happens to live nearby, but he ships). I can fit 10 sheets of Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 308 gsm (plus one more for the cover window) and a single sheet of nice paper for the text intro. This isn’t quite enough to do a true Brooks-style folio (I have two LensWork folios, so I know what they look like), but they’re still pretty nice. You do also need a way to stick them together; I bit the bullet and sprung for the Brooks-recommended 1/4″ ATG tape dispenser by 3M.

    • Good for you, Franz! I’d love to know more about your process for deciding the subject matter for a folio, and then how you went about making your selections. I’m sure they are beautiful. It must be so satisfying to hold a finished product like that in your hands.

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