Maybe it’s because of it being the beginning of a new year, maybe it’s just coincidence, but I recently saw quite a flock of blogposts reflecting on revisiting ones previous work. All of those I have in mind were written with surprise at the photographs encountered.
This in turn surprises me.
There is nothing special in returning to photographs taken in the past and I do it frequently. I also do encourage everyone who takes photos to get a usable (digital) asset management (DAM) system, no matter if it is a piece of software or just a working folder hierarchy on your harddrive. Anything is fine, as long as it fulfills the purpose of providing you with easy and fast access to all the photographs you have taken
There are many reasons for me to walk back in time and look at photographs taken years ago:
- Nostalgia. I don’t only shoot 52kr, I also take photographs of my family and friends, during weekend or holiday trips, you name it. Watching these photographs brings back memories I don’t want to miss. A very pleasant and relaxing emotion.
- Inspiration. My old photographs inspire me in that they offer me ideas on the next subject, lighting, composition, etc.
- Education. Looking at an old photograph, I often ask myself why I took it that way. Environment, time, equipment, mood — whatever reason I might have had to take it the way I took it. I also always ask myself, why I do like or don’t like the photograph right now. What could I have done to improve it, what could I have done differently and how would it affect the photograph? The conclusion of this will accompany me at the next photowalks.
- Creativity. In my earlier years of photography, when the digital age wasn’t even dreamt of (but lamenting about the state of photography and its future wasn’t any different from today – but that’s another topic), I learnt to use two or more „crapshots“ and make them into a completely new image. In the darkroom. Today, I don’t do this anymore, because I lack the corresponding software skills and the will to learn them (let me finish learning photography first, please). However, I still contemplate over crappy shots and try to imagine what I could use them for. I find it very inspiring.
- Creativity #2. I also process older images in a different way to see if the result pleases me more than the initial processing. Or I just play around and do crazy stuff. Or I apply minor corrections or undo eny software effects I might have overly applied to the image. Finally, I compare „before“ and „after“ and analyse both versions. Always the same questions: Why do I like this one more than the other? What is the difference and how did I achive it? And so on.
That’s not all that makes me frequently digging through my archives, but the reasons mentioned above are the most significant ones. If I were a teacher I would probably order my students to never ever delete or trash a photo taken, to keep their photos in an organised and easy to access way and to revisit them frequently. But since I’m not, I can only recommend to do so. It’s worth the effort and will definately improve not only your photographs but also your photography experience!