“Two Questions” is a monthly column in which we invite former workshop participants and other photographers to submit two questions, one to Alex and one to Rebecca. This week, photographer David Bacher asks the two questions. You’ll find one of his photographs immediately below, and, at the end of this column, you’ll also find his bio and link to his website.
DB: Rebecca, when you are working on a project, with the long-term goal being a published book, how do you decide when you have enough photos?
RNW: Well, having just finished my second book, Violet Isle, a joint book with Alex, and nearing the completion of what I hope will be my third book, My Dakota, I guess I’d say that although each book is unique, the process is somewhat similar. After I’ve gathered perhaps 25 to 30 images or more, I make small work prints – often no larger than 4×6 inches – and place them on a large table and create an edit. Then I usually place that edit up on a wall in our studio, and try to visit it daily if I can. Simultaneously, I’m also continuing to photograph the project, and then slowly trying to weave some of this new work into the rough edit.
Over the years, one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned is that my work is much smarter than I am. Although I think I know what I’m working on, the work is silently, persistently, trying to tell me what it’s truly about – which is often more complicated and contradictory and chaotic than I first saw or thought or intended. At this point, I often feel somewhat uncomfortable and confused and frustrated, which I’ve also learned over the years, probably means I’m on the right path. The key, for me at least, is to listen deeply to what the work is trying to tell me without trying to smooth out its paradoxes or rough edges. Often these contradictions contain the true energy of the work, its necessary tensions, what I’d even go so far as to call its “life.” So, by looking intently and listening long and hard to the work – as I continue to photograph and weave in new work – eventually the work lets me know when it’s done, or perhaps a better way of saying it: the work lets me know when it’s done with me.
DB: And Alex, this question also pertains to a long-term book project. When you are working, do you go out with a certain subject or place in mind, or do you just set out and wander, waiting for things to unfold?
AW: When I start one of my own personal projects, it is a bit like embarking on a journey with no clear end in sight. I visit a place, a situation, and then I start to wander, allowing the camera and my experiences to lead me where they will, waiting – as you say – for “things to unfold.” Of course, I may have preconceptions and prejudices – how could I not – but I try to push those to the back of my mind and respond in the moment. The process is very visceral: I am not thinking about the place, I am “smelling” the photographic possibilities of a place. As I spend more time in a place, as I wander more – and especially after I have looked at some of my photographs and returned – I have an increasing sense of where I need to go to complete the project. The potential end becomes clearer. But the process in the street remains consistently intuitive, non-rational. I am making spontaneous visual decisions based on notions, instincts, urges, not through a more rational thought process.
David Bacher is an American/Austrian photographer living near Paris. He was born in Virginia and first came into contact with the visual arts in high school where he attended elective courses in drawing, painting, sculpture and black-and-white photography. David later studied at the University of Virginia, where he completed a double major in anthropology and economics, subjects that began to shape his views of the socio-economic issues facing the world today. After college, he moved to Vienna where he competed as a professional rower for three years. With the idea of becoming a professional photographer in mind, David moved to Aarhus, Denmark in 2004 to attend a 6-month international course in photojournalism at the Danish School of Journalism. During his stay he interned at the newspaper “Politiken” in Copenhagen and at a commercial photography studio. Following these studies, David moved to Paris where he interned with the VII Photo agency. Since 2005, he has been working as a freelance photographer for individuals, corporations, and magazines. In his spare time, David enjoys taking street photos, listening to music, reading, and hiking in the mountains.