Thinking in Terms of Collections

So This is AmericaSo This is America Hosted on Zooomr

One thing that trying to publish 1,000 photos of CES last week made me think about in more depth was my own need to think in terms of collections with regards to my photography. More and more I’m finding myself becoming something of a collector with my camera being my collecting tool.

In my own mind I’m increasingly breaking down my photos into categories. Photos of advertising, photos of neon signs, photos of people, photos of women, photos of men, photos of sunsets, photos of bicycles, photos of CES, photos of bridges, self portraits, photos of trains, photos of San Francisco… and the list of things to collect is becoming larger and larger every day. Main collections spawn sub collections, sub collections bridge to form larger more conceptual collections and so on.

After shooting, processing and publishing over 700 photos of CES last week I’m also becoming increasingly confident that my artistic goal of surpassing Angelo Rizzuto’s collection fo 60,000 photos is going to be relatively easy and I should be there much sooner than I’d hoped. I’m still interested in learning about more photographers out there who built large libraries during their lives, but the advantage of digital photography as a tool to build these large collections is a tremendous one and it should allow virtually any serious digital photographer the ability to surpass the film photographers of the past.

Central to building the largest, highest quality, library of personally shot images in the world will be living a long time. Death is a bitter mistress who can strike at any time. But we can only do the best that we can do to keep her away. The good news is that photowalking can very much be part of a healthy lifestyle even into old age. I routinely walk five miles or more on many of my photowalks and definitely break a sweat as I’m crawling around on the ground, climbing up on things, etc. to get the shot that needs to be taken. As more and more time is created for photowalking into retirement, shooting longer periods of time every day should continue to improve health. I need to watch the diet a bit better. Less Tommy’s, Henry’s Hunan and cherry pie, but it can be done.

Of course sitting down and processing all of those photos is another story. I can only hope that the technological tools to process photos get better and better and allow improved speeds in photo editing. This is what kept me from my goal of 1,000 photos in Vegas last week mostly.

Work of course also gets in the way of photography. This is part of why I’m so interested in creating in Zooomr a viable way for photographers to access the stock photography markets. More on this in the next few months.

Then there are those that tell me that my obsessive pursuit of photography is not the healthiest thing. That I need more balance in my life. I’m not sure that I buy into this. The most important part of balance though is with regards to my family and children. And I’m not really sure that photography is a detriment here. In fact, I find that I’m constantly doing quality educational things with my kids because of the fact that these things also make interesting shooting opportunities. The Oakland or San Francisco Zoo. The Chabot Space and Science Center, a hike to see multiplying lady bugs. All of these things are great for the kids and great for photography. Both of my sons like to shoot my 10D when we go on these trips to shoot. My daughters are still a little young to be into photography but even pushing them in the stroller still leaves one good hand to shoot.

Ultimately the purpose of these collections will revolve around using the images as raw materials for new more complex collage type creations. I’m thinking of new eventual projects in my own mind all the time. I’d like to create shows around collections where every inch of a gallery is covered in photos of a certain theme. Imagine walking into a gallery with a single door, no windows, where every inch, even the floor is covered in photos of neon signs.

Another project I’d like to create is a some kind of a page of portraits that I’ve taken of people with blogs. The page would be a giant collage of thumnails and as you hovered over every small thumbnail it would zooom and pop up a larger portrait of that person with a link to their blog underneath. A pictorial directory of blogs. A way to humanize blogs to some small degree.

I’d like to fill an entire men’s rest room with images of women, an entire women’s rest room with images of men and a unisex restroom with images of women and men. I’d like to cover interiors and exteriors of buildings with 8×10 photographs. Plastering every inch. I’d like to use my collection of macro images of children’s toys to cover a child’s play room.

One thing above all that is important in my own personal collection of images is that each image must alone and by itself be interesting. It must be processed and presented with love and care to the world and suitable to exist alongside the other images in the master collection. Anyone can take one million photographs by setting the camera on rapid fire and shooting the same thing over and over and over again and dumping random shots onto the internet. I want to keep the quality of my images consistently high allowing only processed images that I feel meet a high enough quality bar to present.

6 Replies to “Thinking in Terms of Collections”

  1. Even though I’ve only been getting into photography in the past 8 months I also find myself thinking about photo projects for 2007 (

    Having been (and still) and massive video gamer the amount of exercise I was getting before photography was pretty minimal. I now walk a load each week and this is all down to photowalking (you should patent that term Thomas).

    I also see photography as a way to look upon things differently. I’ve lived in Cambridge, UK for 7 years now, but it’s only been since I picked up a camera have I really appreciated the beauty thay I live in.

    Finally, and in relation to your comment about the fragility of life, having just last week lost my father-in-law I am determined to “do” rather than talk in 2007. Keeping up2date (Flickr,Twitter,your blog) with your challenges and triumphs is defo one way to keep me very motivated.

    Good luck for 2007.


  2. This is a great blog post Thomas! I love how you grapple with the organizational aspect of shooting thousands of photos. I have felt the same way. I also love to see you consider the critics “balance of life” argument and then still go with your gut. Bravo!

    Furthermore, it is great to see you share your passion with your children. That will be a gift they will remember long after you are gone. In fact, I dare say that if the photos never achieved anything and all you got was delivery of a passion to your children, you will have accomplished plenty! Thanks for sharing!


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