After the assignment was completed, I would come away with a roll or two of several versions of photographs of the subject (angle of view, verticals and horizontals, different poses) for the magazine editors to choose from. Plus the rolls I shot on my own. I usually sensed when someone did not want to be photographed. Shooting on the streets of cities had sensitized me to people's reactions to cameras. Sometimes I was outright assaulted or yelled at. So I got educated as to who to shoot and who to leave alone. A direct approach and a smile sometimes helped.
I found that most people didn't mind and even liked being the subject of attention. But some suspiciously resented the intrusion. Some union members resented both the union and the company. But we were rarely met with resistance if I identified myself as from the union and for the magazine Solidarity, the union rag.
I quit shooting for the unions in the mid 1990s. I even stopped pursuing all freelance assignments. Once in a while something would come along and I would shoot it because I needed the money. Also a family member needed my support almost full time. So I committed to that and signed onto Social Security benefits.
All along I had been exhibiting my prints in occasional gallery group and solo shows.
Eventually I was very fortunate to hook up with a local photo rep and dealer and those sales sustained me for several years.I'd also been thinking about books.
Which brings me to the thrust of this blog post. My factory photographs. What to do with them. A few months ago I decided that I should do a book of factory photographs. Specifically using the ones that were never published or even printed. When I think back, a certain amount of effort was expended to get those photographs. I viewed it then as effortless effort. To see a situation and simultaneously react to that inner impulse gently shouting 'shoot, shoot, shoot.' But does the process have to end right there? Sadly It usually does. The negatives are filed away into the dark recesses of a metal cabinet or worse, a shoe box in the closet never to see the light of day. Shouldn't there be some completion, some follow through? Some acknowledgement that those initial impulses were real and genuine? Seems criminal to me. A crime against myself as if to concede those impulses don't matter after the shutter is clicked. I've decided that they do matter and must be acted upon. I'm no different than many photographers who, for one reason or another, dig out those old negatives and find gems that were previously overlooked.
I had already published a book of industrial worker portraits paired with labor writings and poems. That book, This Working Life, those photographs, those poems gave voice to those anonymous laborers and acknowledged that their efforts, their lives mattered. And now their companions, their comrades from the lines, the mills, the factories will also be acknowledged that they did exist at that time and in that place. The title of the book will be FACTORY.
The final book photographs will be selected after everything is printed. I'll probably print and bind at least one copy myself. I've started to string initial pages together on a computer editing platform and will decide about publishing copies from there.
A secondary related thought came to mind. When all contact sheets are reviewed and negatives printed, a full set of factory photographs (many more than will go into the book - possibly 200-300 prints) will go to the D.I.A. Also to the Detroit Historical Museum, The Burton Library and The Walter Reuther Library. And maybe the Bentley Historical Library in Ann Arbor. Right now in this first week of July 2017, almost 90 different negatives have been printed. So one might ask "Why would these institutions want these photographs, Russ?" And my answer might be along the lines that all of them are basically research facilities and repositories for all things Detroit. The Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs in particular is the largest labor archives in North America. Its mission is to collect, preserve and provide access to the documentary and visual heritage of the American labor movement. The Detroit Institute of Art of course is an art museum, one of the best in the country. They hold almost 200 of my prints so far, several of which have been included in recent museum exhibitions. Adding to that collection is a goal.
One might also ask "Russ, why are you giving away these prints? Can it be that this is a totally altruistic, unselfish and charitable gesture for the benefit of these institutions?" My answer would be along the lines of no, not totally. I make no apologies for my concerns for the fate of my photographs. Many artists, photographers, writers, etc have always been concerned that they - along with their life's work will be forgotten and end up in the dust bin. Published books and gifts to archival institutions are ways to preserve a legacy even as the dust of time will settle on the warehouse shelves of paintings, manuscripts and photographs. I hesitate to burden my well-meaning relatives with future indecisions about my closet full of photographs and negatives.
Following is my printing procedure; About 1/2 of the completed shots printed are scanned from existing black and white prints. All of the rest are from 35mm black and white negatives and some 120. A few are converted from color negs and slides. All are archival ink jet prints from a Canon PIXMA ip8720. The paper is Canon Premium Matte 8.5x11, 12.2 mil, 56 lbs. Using 3rd party inks from 4inkjets. I'm making 4 - 8.5x11 prints each. Image size is 9 inch on the long side. Short sides vary according to cropping requirements of each photograph.