Sam Abell is in Seattle this week conducting a workshop at Art Wolfs place and on Tuesday evening gave a very generous 2 1/2 talk on photography in general and on his new book in particular
His fine, generous, and very personal new book The Life of a Photograph came out last month and it is a natural extension of his earlier book The Life of A Photographer which came out a few years ago.
The new book is about the process of photography. He shows other frames taken before and after some of his favorite pictures, most of them published by NG. There are pairs of picture taken over time; sequences; even failures. Along the way you get a genuine glimpse inside his sensibility, and visual, not theoretical, indications of what it is that makes a Sam Abell picture a Sam Abell. The effect is of a comfortable tour of what it’s like behind one very famous photographer’s eyes.
It is interesting to note that he mentions that the rap against him at the magazine was that his pictures were too quiet. They may be quiet, but there is an intensity and a purity of spirit to all of his images that more than makes up for thier lack of dramatic impact.They reward the patient viewer who spends some time looking at them. Even upon repeated viewing his pictures continue to give pleasure.
In the talk he showed versions of his famous photo of pears on window sill with Red Square in distance, that he took while shooting a story for National Geographic in the early 1980’s at the height of the cold war. He talked about how he made a sequence of pictures and displayed the whole series starting with the first photo he took at 6am when he woke up and then over the course of the day as he continued to shoot as he rearranged the pears and the curtain and the angle of view before arriving at his final famous picture that the magazine used with the story.
Now after almost 30 years have passed he told us that his opinion has changed. Now as he reconsiders his editing decision, his favorite picture is the first one he shot at 6am, not the one made famous from being published in the magazine. The book is really worth the time it takes to go through it. It makes you think.
Seattle photographer Daniel Sheehan, is a photojournalist specializing in jazz photography, photojournalism and portrait photography for publications and corporations. He is also a Seattle wedding photographer with a subtle, unobtrusive, story-telling approach creating award winning wedding photojournalism ranking him among the best Seattle wedding photographers.