Ode to a Contact Sheet


Quite a few years ago Jess and I took a roll of film of each other, standing in the same place with the old twin lens reflex I was using at the time.   I found this contact sheet recently and pinned it to the wall.  The two rolls of film, overlaid as shot are  full of surprises and laughs, scary in an oddly shocking way.  All and more than we intended at the time. I wonder why I put the sheet deep in a box and did not look at it for years.  It is a  beautiful contact sheet printed on some old (even at the time) single weight glossy silver gelatin paper.   I now see this  contact sheet as the piece for this shoot,  not individual frames. The overlaid negatives merged because we shot standing in the exact same place.  It is odd because I remember the day, the weather but I do not remember the place.   It was no doubt the yard, the scary out of doors where we lived in the woods with its glowing light, trees on all edges, an old cabin in a small clearing.

This post is an ode to these two rolls of film that merged and celebrate the happy accident, the unknowing intent, the down right luck involved in  making art .  Not all contact sheets are works of art in themselves.  But all contact sheets teach us about how we see when we make photographs.  Can looking at work in this linear fashion be done effectively with contact sheets made from digital images?  I ask my digital students to make  contact sheets  from  their top twenty images from an assignment.  They love looking at the contact sheets but it is a completely different way of editing/looking  than making a sheet from a roll of film.  What are the effects on how photographers are learning to see?  I don’t know the answer to this.  If anyone does, please let me know.

One thought on “Ode to a Contact Sheet

  1. Marjie Clark

    Janet, these are great. I’ve been going through boxes of photos too, but mine aren’t nearllly as interesting. So, I think I need to look at them differently.
    Thanks for the inspiration.


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