Sunday, January 18, 2009


I received an email from the KU School of Journalism last week. The person wanted to know if I was interested in displaying 20-30 photos of my photos at the J-School. I was flattered and I immediately said yes. Who wouldn't want to show their work at their alma mater? Then, I really began thinking about it.

First, I wondered who the hell backed out on such short notice. After all, they want these images framed and on the wall by February 6th, so being local, well, you do the math.

Second, I quickly discovered just how much of my work was inaccessible to me, given the short time frame. Anything I shot on film before the advent of digital would need to be scanned and printed, or negatives sent out for printing immediately. No time for that, so a lot of my favorites from the '80s and '90s are out by default.

Third, a lot of the digital I shot in 2001-2003 just really won't hold up in 16 x 20 enlargements. Or at least something I want to have my name associated with.

Fourth, my archiving efforts have been absolutely abysmal. It's as if I have a big digital shoe box and I have thrown most of my images into--at least since I went to law school in 2005. Note to self: I need to catalog the cabinet full of DVDs. Need to investigate better archiving software. If I sent down for one solid week of 12 hour days, I MIGHT get a handle on it. MAYBE.

Fifth, I need to rededicate myself to some sort of long term photographic project to keep my eye sharp and to bring a little joy and creative energy into my life.

Finally, and most importantly, it is truly humbling to look back at what you've shot and what you thought was good. Much of it doesn't strike me the same way it did when I first shot it. As a matter of fact, much of what I've shot in my career as a photographer seems quite vapid in retrospect. I'd classify a lot of it as a kind of visual elevator Musak. Certainly not Wagner or even the Partridge Family. I spent the better part of the yesterday looking for photos, editing, and lamenting that I've spent almost 30 years shooting professionally, and my impression of my work is that I produced a plethora of incredibly average images. They paid the bills, but most of them do not nourish the soul or deserve to be hung on a wall for all to see. Maybe I'm overthinking all of this, but I sure hope that the the poor journalism students who are subjected to viewing my work on a daily basis for the next 4 months don't think I've wasted my time, because that's exactly how I feel as I edit my "retrospective." I know I'll likely be remembered for other more important things, but I am going to make it a goal to produce some images that I would be proud of when my final retrospective is hung.


Doug said...

Congrats on the offer to display your photos at the J-School. That is so very cool. I don't envy the short time frame, though. Ouch!

If you'd like some photo editing thoughts from one of your biggest fans - I'd be happy to offer my humble opinions.

And, I've been mulling a project that would include an eclectic group of Lawrence photographers and our quirky city. Maybe we can get together sometime soon and discuss.

Congrats again. - doug

kelsey siobhan said...

I think you tend to underestimate just how great of a photographer you really are! I am always bragging to my friends and showing them pictures of yours. I hope that I have inherited at least some of your artistic eye :)
I am excited to see your artwork on display at the J-School and to be able to tell people that it is MY dad's! Give yourself a pat of the back, you deserve it pops!

love you, Kelsey

p.s. I don't think someone else backed out at the last minute, I just think KU is really slow & unorganized! Be proud :D

Mike Shepherd said...

Hey, Earl. Interestingly, I currently have an exhibit on display at the KU School of Medicine (in Wichita). It also is a collection of newspaper images. Like you, I felt underwhelmed by most of the images I looked through. Most of what made the final cut never were published. Go figure.

As for archiving, I use a program called Portfolio. It's made by a company called Extensis. It will catalog straight from DVDs using keywords in the file info field and words/phrases in the file name. So if you've at least done a good job of captioning images, cataloging would only require you to swap discs out of your drive. It's what I use at the medical school. I don't recall how much we paid for it. I don't think it was too unreasonable.