Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Photographer Who Takes Pictures of Women and Guns

© Amy Stein
Alec Soth has often mentioned his theory that a photographer will be reduced to a single sentence that describes their work; "she makes creepy digital pictures of kids with big eyes, he took picture of Parisian architecture at the turn of the century, she took pictures of freaks and committed suicide." For several years my sentence was 'she takes uncomfortable portraits of women with guns' and I was more than happy with that label and the body of work.

Women and Guns was my first serious attempt at producing a series and the photos were head and shoulders better than anything I had down to that point. It was also very successful. The work got me into grad school, it was featured in the 2005 PDN Photo Annual, it has been included in a number of group shows, and still manages to generate the occasional interest from folks on the Internet and magazines. Now, I find myself in a place where I would like to remove Women and Guns from my online portfolio and stop promoting the work.

I arrived at this decision for a number of reasons. In my mind the quality of the work is inconsistent. Also, I never finished the series, so the images seem cobbled together without a cohesive vision. Formal issues aside, the work just seems a million miles away from where I am now and my gut tells me it's time to put it behind me and focus on making and promoting the work that really fires my spirit.

I am mentioning this because I would like to get feedback from folks on my decision to put that work to bed. Is it better for an emerging photographer to showcase the evolution of their output or should they only highlight their most recent and strongest work? Good idea or bad idea to drop Women and Guns?

UPDATE: Just as I'm thinking of doing this La Repubblica, the largest weekly paper in Italy, runs a gallery of photos from Women and Guns and suddenly I am the toast of Italy. Just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in! This event aside, I still think it's time to move on and remove the series from my site.
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