The truth about marinating your photos

Article Dedication

In honor of

Leonard Freed & Peter Marlow


“Winogrand almost never developed his film immediately. He said he deliberately waited a year or two in order to lose the memory of the take. “If I was in a good mood when I was shooting one day, then developed the film right away,” he told a class, “I might choose a picture because I remember how good I felt when I took it.” Better, he maintained to let the film “age,” the better to grade slides or contact sheets objectively.

Well, boys and girls…it is bullshit.

Winogrand had a big ego. If you look at some of the Winogrand interviews you will see a lot of pretension in his thinking. Winogrand just couldn’t admit the was chronically behind, so he made excuses. That is the real reason for ‘marinating’ his photos.

People like Eric Kim that just regurgitates what he reads in books latches onto this marinating idea and blindly accepts it as gospel. They propagate the wrong ways to their devotees that don’t know anything and pretty soon marinating your photos becomes the thing to do.

John Szarkowski on Winogrand…

“To expose film is not quite to photograph, and the photographer who does not consider his finished pictures is like a pianist who plays only on a silent keyboard. In the absence of proof, mistakes multiply, craft becomes theory, and good thinking passes for art. As Winogrand fell farther behind in the criticism of his own work his technique deteriorated. The last few thousand rolls are plagued with technical failures—optical, chemical, and physical flaws—in one hundred permutations. The most remarkable of these errors is his failure to hold the camera steady at the moment of exposure. Even in bright sunlight, with fast shutter speeds, the negatives are often not sharp. It is as though the making of an exposure had become merely a gesture of acknowledgment that what lay before the camera might make a photograph, if one had the desire and the energy to focus one’s attention.”

This sums up the aging your photos a la’ Winogrand / Eric Kim issue pretty well.

Now…I’m 2 to 3 years behind myself, but I won’t bullshit you, I shoot so much I don’t have time to even look at it. I don’t like it, but that is how it is. And I’m very, very choosy what I shoot too, but I just have too many projects.

Here is a list of artists’ books I’ve finished or am working on…

Plus I have tons more pix I’ve shot for other non-book projects.

Photogs ‘age’ their work is because they are hoping their bad photos will somehow magically look better later on. They can’t admit to themselves they have nothing good. So they put the photo away and hope it will appeal to them more down the road.

“The best photo strikes the eye as the right chord strikes the ear.” ~ Marc Riboud

Generally speaking, there should be no question when we have a great shot. The iconic photo never needs to age to look good. You don’t have to keep trying to sell yourself on it, hoping it looks better over time. The great photo jumps right out at you.

One of the few times marinating has worked was in the case of Vivian Maier. Some of her snapshots look a whole lot better when they have nostalgia value added by aging them. That is how it goes with this process. You take any old nothing photo, age it 75 or 100 years and now it is a masterpiece.

Here is another case where marinating a photo worked out. But, this was due to technology taking 40 years to catch up with recreating a poorly crafted photo I shot when I was 19.

Sunlit Slipper Silver Print vs Inkjet Print Copyright 2013 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. 'Sunlit Slipper' Copyright 1973 Daniel D. Teoli Jr V16.

Generally speaking, you should NEVER marinate your photos – learn from your mistakes ASAP. No one is saying your photos can’t evolve and get updated as your taste and skills change. But, if you got nothing good, accept it and move on. Of course, this is all a personal thing. There are no photo police out there, so we can all do as we like.

De Wallen Graffiti copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.