What do you do with your pictures?

No, seriously! It’s not a trick question. What do you do with your pictures?

Do you go aaaahhhhh (pretending to be at the dentist), and then, after applauding yourself with the latest masterpiece condemn it to a dusty corner of your hard disk never to be seen again?

I used to be like that. And then a few years ago Denise convinced me to buy some frames and hang a handful of pictures in the living room. I was very humbled, but yet very proud, that she thought they were good enough to go up on the walls. So for a few years, I’ve had a handful of 16″x12″ prints and two 20″x30″ canvas prints hanging on the living room walls.

Denise and Mark making rude gestures

No. It's not fine art. Some may say it's not even good taste. But Denise was having a great time, finally partying after her hair had grown back, and Mark was being a gentleman and encouraging her to go on and have some more fun.

I also have the obligatory wedding picture by the bed, one of her in my office, and a couple of extra of her dotted around the house after she died. But mainly it’s been those 5 + 2 pictures that have dominated the living room walls for a few years.

That hasn’t stopped me from making pictures and doing the dentist patient impersonation. Sometimes when things don’t work out as I had hoped, I sound like I’m having a root canal done without anesthesia, but it’s still a dentistry scene. Fortunately, though, it’s mostly the “open up wide”, aaaahhhhhhhh sound. And then maybe a quick post here and on Flickr, before the picture is condemned to a dusty corner of the hard disk, never to be seen again.

It may not be the best picture I've taken of Sarah, but I like the slightly voeyristic feel it has. Like we're seeing something private, that wasn't meant to be captured.

That’s a shame!

When I started my photo course last year, full of eagerness and dedication, I went out and bought myself a good photo printer. It wasn’t a way of squirreling some of the household money into my hobby, it was simply a necessity in order to complete my course assignments. I needed to be able to print pictures to send to my tutor, honest guv! (I quickly explained to him that although the school accepts email submissions, I much preferred send him real prints). So I’ve had some prints laying in a pile over the last 8 months while I’ve been trying to complete the first assignment, but they’ve been for the study, rather than just for pleasure.

So a few weekends ago, I took a trip down to Ikea and bought some picture ledges. It’s like a very slim shelf, maybe 3″ deep, with a 1″ lip on. I had a lot of unused space by the staircase, so I got about 11m (33 feet) of them and screwed them up on the wall, spaced a foot and a half apart, from hip-height downstairs to a foot and a half below the ceiling upstairs. A foot and a half happens to be the height that a 12”x8” (or A4) print in a nice mount occupies in portrait orientation, while still leaving a gap of “air” up to the next shelf.

A few days ago I ordered a batch of strut mounts, the kind of carton things that you will probably remember getting your school photos in years ago. You know, it’s really just two pieces of carton glued together, with an aperture cut in the top sheet, and a carton “foot” bundled on the back of the rear sheet so the whole thing can stand on its own like an ultra cheap glass-less frame. Bought in bulk, 50 of them set me back around 50 quid, including shipping, so about a pound each. Not bad, and they’re very lightweight and ultra quick to put a picture into.

Xylophone soloist from the Royal Genadier Guard's Band. I normally show a picture of the contra bass player, just because his instrument has more ooomph than a xylophone. But I really like the concentrated look on th xylophone player's face as well.

Depending on how many pics I pick in portrait format and how many in landscape format, the ledges will hold between 30 and 35 mounted A4 (or 8″x12″) pictures. There won’t be any glass in front of them, so the idea is that I start by filling the shelves up with a current selection, and then whenever I’ve been out taking pictures, instead of doing the dentist-patient impersonation, I can print a picture or two from the event and put it up as a replacement for one or two of the older pictures. Like a constantly rotating gallery exhibition, if I was to put a flash name to it.

So today I went through pictures from the last 4 or 5 years, trying to find the initial 35 pictures that will start the “gallery”. It was fun to re-live the memories as I browsed through the collections in Lightroom, picking what I thought was the best, or funniest, or just the ones that brought the biggest smile to my face. Despite trying to be very strict, I still ended up with about 80, rather than 35, so there were a couple of rounds of heart-wrenching filtering, but I did eventually get it down to the magical number. And it doesn’t matter if I made the wrong choices, because it’ll be easy to change my mind next month or the month after that. That’s the beauty of the system.

I very much look forward to get some more pictures up on the wall. They don’t have to be master pieces. They don’t have to be good enough to “survive” for years. They just need to be something I would like to look at a little longer, after the initial echo of the rinse-and-spit-aahhhh has reverberated and died out.

An old favourite that never made it to print. It was always the second best, overtaken by one of my canvas prints. But now that there's room for a lot more of them, it gets a chance for a while. The scene is sunrise over the Thames, with the modern power house of the financial district Canary Wharf in the background, and the thousand year old power house of Tower barely visible beneath it. The colours are less dramatic, and maybe more realistic, than many of my night-time shots. But today I feel like realism, rather than Hollywood-inspired Technicolor.

I have deliberately chosen slightly quirky pictures to illustrate this post. They’re the number twos, the second bests, the ones that now get a chance, for a while, in “Gallery Staircase”. Apologies for any offense caused by the first one.

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