The Importance of Curation

Many of us remain under more or less strict lockdown, giving us plenty of time to look into our own photography. One of the most important subjects rarely discussed is curation.

There is a common misconception that great photographers always shoot great images. Yes of course they do, but they also capture lots of mediocre images, like the rest of us. Over the years I’ve interacted with and studied the best photographers in the world and if there is one common factor, they are great curators of their own work. 

What does it mean to curate? Curation is the impartial selection and revaluation of a photographer’s own work for the purpose of presenting one image or a series of images. It sounds easy and straightforward, but it is not. 

The biggest problem with curation is our personal attachment to the imagery. In fact, during a conversation, I can easily sense photographers who are most likely to have a hard time curating their own images. The most common philosophy is “I do it for myself, so I don’t care what others think.” The undertone of this approach is that because I like my image, it must be good. This self-centred tactic is the most common trap preventing many photographers from becoming good curators of their own work. 

That’s not the only problem. The other issue is an inability to reduce the selection to an absolute minimum. With the ease of digital photography, we shoot and share too much. In other words, we shoot with “maybe it will turn out” and curate with “let’s see what works.” In contrast, great photographers are in full control at every stage of image curation. They shoot only when they are convinced they can craft a great image and then they make a great effort to choose the best among their already great images.

I have no doubt that the process of curation is essential to becoming a better photographer. It requires practice, perseverance and a certain visual proficiency but even at entry level, introducing the concept of curation or choosing only your best work and deleting all the rest, is one of the most important photographic procedures. In my next post I will expound on this important subject. 

Below please find some of my recent visual explorations. Due to the constraints of social distancing, I have been going out and exercising my visual muscles by embracing light and arranging line and perspective. I view it as visual notetaking of ideas, which eventually leads me to great final images. Most of the time I don’t share these “practice” images but given the situation, I decided to do just that. Talk about discipline! All images are taken with the GFX50S and the GF45-100 F4 lens. 

next time…

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10 thoughts on “The Importance of Curation

  1. Olaf, just checking in. Your site has been quiet, so thought i’d send a note. Hope all’s well. Craig

    1. Hello Craig,

      Thank you for checking out on me. It means a lot. I have been very busy with the Medium Format Magazine but I will do my best to write more often here. I trust you are well my friend.

      1. Olaf, Good to know. All’s good here as well. That magazine‘s imagery is impressive. Hard to ignore the gorgeous tonalities that medium format seems to offer more of. Cheers, craig

  2. I feel like I go through these periods where I’m manic about creating because I’m afraid I’ll end up in the photographic doldrums with nothing. Most of the time I pickup my one camera and one lens and I wonder “what can I create right now” and I don’t get an answer.

  3. For me the difficulty of curation (not that I post “everything”, far from it, it’s not having the confidence to know what is worth keeping and what is not. It’s the situation where you share a few photos with just another photographer and they think the ones that are “great” are the ones you hate! 😃.

    Stay safe!

    1. Great point! In such a case it is important to photograph the same places and compare our progress. It gives us some sort of benchmark. Also it is good to focus on one specific area of image-making, for example negative space or placement of the subject within the frame and practice this one thing only for a while.

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