There is something to be said for living with a photograph. Sometimes, I’ll take a recently completed image and set it as my desktop background. Why? Because it’s both impermanent, and it’s a place where I will get to see that image every single day.
This is important because displaying an image like that, to me, serves a two-fold purpose. Not only does it give me an image to enjoy every day, but it stands as a thorough test of that image’s staying power. Sometimes, I find myself changing my desktop background every week. Other times, I land on a particular image and it stays put for weeks or even months. Not because I forgot about it, but because I’m still enjoying seeing that image each and every day.
I think this type of observation is an incredibly valuable thing to do with our own images because we stand to learn so much from this experience. Those images that tend to bounce around a lot? The ones we put on display and then quickly swap out once we’ve grown bored with them? That’s a signal that while they may be perfectly nice images, they may not be truly powerful enough to hang on a wall in someone’s living room for years on end.
On the flip side of that, those images that stick around for a long time—there’s something there that kept us from changing it to a new image. Something that we can perhaps cultivate, a secret sauce for us to discover and refine so that we can add it to other images.
It’s worthwhile to explore the whys and hows of this phenomenon, and to ask ourselves some important questions. What is it about the images that didn’t last? What can we improve? What is missing that kept the image from holding our attention for a longer span?
Compare those questions to questions about images that did hang around for a while. What was it about them that we found so enjoyable? What more do these images have over the ones that we dismissed rather quickly? If we can learn the answers to these things, we can apply what we’ve learned to future photographs.
So that’s why I think it is important to live with our own photographs. But how do we go about living with them? Setting them as your desktop background is one way to do it because it’s impermanent and easy to switch between photographs as the need arises. But other photographers may need to display more photographs, or maybe they don’t use their computers often enough to see the image daily.
If you fit into one of these categories, then a better option might be a digital picture frame in your living room displaying a series of images. Or place your images on a thumb drive, and if you have a smart TV, plug it in and let it play a slideshow all day long as you go about your business. You can even hearken back to the old darkroom days and use clothespins plus twine to create a wall display of hanging prints that you can switch around easily whenever you need to.
Just find a way to live with your images. Create for yourself a space that allows you to examine how you react to your photographs over time—and that will paint an interesting picture of what you can improve and what you’re doing that is working beautifully.