The Verba series: background

I hated my conceptual assignments in college.  All my fellow students seemed to be inspired (or nuts, depending on how you look at it.)  Inspired I was not – I shied away from anything personal, and anything else just seemed cliché or flat.  It wasn’t until a discussion during a night out over drinks that I realized most of the people in my classes had a source of inspiration I wasn’t willing to try.

One of the photographers at the studio I interned with graduated from the same college I was attending.  Once while discussing the college, she laughed and told me that she could have photographed a tampon on the pavement and if she spun it right, would have gotten an A for concept.  While hilariously true, it bothered me.  Good conceptual photography should stand on its own – it shouldn’t need an explanation.

I don’t know if my cyanotype Verba series is good conceptual work.  I do know that it’s highly personal.  I’ve posted a few individual photographs and one composite – seen here: https://mpaulphotography.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/paper-white-and-other-toning-myths/

It’s not a large body of work; as series go, it’s pretty small.  It will probably be an ongoing series because it’s based off my own writing.  Bad poetry, certainly.  I usually only write when things are bad, so the entire series is somewhat depressing.  I’m ok with that – it’s a map of my life.  To pretend these things didn’t happen would negate who and what I am.

I began the series with the intent to do a group of triptychs – 3 grouped photographs that evoked the emotions that particular poem was about.  As usual, my intentions morphed into something else – a group of 2s and 4s.  I’ve always been fascinated by the square format.   Even when working with a 35mm film camera, my first “real” series was shot intending to print in a square format.

The 4-part composites are 15 inches by 15 inches.  The 2-part composites are only 10×15.  It’s tempting to try to print to my limits with the photographs themselves at 8 inches across for a total of 18×18.  I would, if I had bigger trays and wasn’t concerned with trying to find huge 24×24 frames to fit them (I’m not quite able to pay someone to custom make my frames.)

It’s moderately challenging even with the smaller format.  I print each photograph as a 6 inch square negative, then line them up as perfectly as possible on the coated paper.  The poetry is written on remnants of the negative substrate for consistency and placed as needed on the edges of the negatives.  Done correctly, it looks like (I think!) one large negative. 

This photograph is destined to print in another 4-part composite image.  I would tell you the subject matter, but then it couldn’t stand on its own.

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