Musings on Photography

cleaning up

Posted in equipment, process by Paul Butzi on July 1, 2009

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I’m cleaning out my workspace. And, while I’m doing it, I’m finding lots of stuff I want to get rid of. Cameras that I haven’t used in a long time. Meters I don’t use any more. A staggering amount of stuff that’s just plain trash.

I’d put off the big cleanup until I was done with SoFoBoMo. Not just done, but done done. And now I’m lifting my sights from the SoFoBoMo goal of getting my book done, and upward toward the horizon of where I want my photography to go in the next year. I’m looking at all those theatre photos, and I’m letting them percolate in my mind, in the hopes that something really good will brew up in there.

So yesterday I sold off the old dry mount press. It felt good, and here’s why – it breaks the chain. Sure, I could still make silver prints if I really wanted to – I just would have to cobble together some way to flatten them and mount them. I could hinge mount them, the way I do inkjet prints now, I guess. But although it might seem silly, getting rid of that big, heavy piece of equipment that looked like something from a 1957 B movie about monsters destroying Tokyo is a big step away from silver for me.

If I’ve got no dry mount press, I know in my heart that I’m not ever making more silver prints. And if I really know that, it means that big old enlarger – it should go too. The enlarging lenses. The enlarging timer. Print washers. There’s a lot of stuff that can go away, and enrich someone else’s life.

I’ve even pondered the idea of really getting rid of stuff – doing a Weston and destroying all those old negatives. Ok, maybe not the family photo negatives – but all the art stuff. Burn all the 45 negatives. I disconnected the scanner yesterday – and I’m thinking I’ll sell it. That sort of breaks the chain to all those 4×5 negatives – no way to scan them any more means I’ll never print them again. And I’m strangely OK with that. I guess I’ll keep the scanner, do a book of the meager quantity of 45 stuff I still like, and then get rid of it all except for the digital versions I need for the book.

This urge to declutter strikes me every once in a while – not just an urge to physically declutter but to inwardly declutter as well. The two don’t seem like they should be linked together but they are.

It’s time for a clean sweep and a fresh mind.

5 Responses

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  1. Ed Richards said, on July 1, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Do not let yourself get rid of the negatives. Put them in storage somewhere if necessary, then think about it again in 5 years. At that point, if you still do not care about them, dump them. The rest is just stuff, even if you change your mind later you can replace it. Getting rid of stuff can be a very good thing – he says, looking around his office and realizing that he has a lot of stuff he should get rid of.

  2. Alex Brikoff said, on July 1, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    I am with you on getting rid of clutter all the way. We all have it and it will continue to accumulate even after periodic purges. I, too, like to get rid of stuff occasionally in mass purges (otherwise known as garage sales and Craigs list). However, I’m a bit reluctant to let go of my negatives and slides just yet. I think of my negs and slides as a kind of documentary of my life, if you will. I’ve got photos that go back to my college days and my earlier life. It’ll be fun to go back and look at those images again as time goes on.

  3. Bill Emory said, on July 1, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Negatives have a proven archival track record. It remains to be seen whether these new papers, inks and digital storage methods will have equivalent durability.

    Hang on to the negatives.

  4. Mike said, on July 4, 2009 at 3:41 am

    Hang on to the negatives you like. Or those which may have historical value — is there a public library that could profit from a donation? Pics of the town as it was in the past are always interesting.

    As for the archival value — that’s old hat — there’s so much produced nowadays (since we’re making the transition from film to digital capture) that losing some won’t make a bit of difference. That said none of our doings will make a bit of difference in the long run.

    Do what makes you feel good.

  5. Tony Mindling said, on July 11, 2009 at 10:57 am

    My overflowing storage closet, file cabinets, USB drives, and garage all attest to the fact that I consistently respect the old rule: “The longer you hang on to something before getting rid of it, the shorter the time after getting rid of it that you will absolutely need it.”


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