Lost Archives: DARK, RAW, and Minimal.

A couple of weeks ago five cartons of slides were discovered in a closet.

These contained photos I exposed in the 1970s and early 1980s that I’d later rejected as ‘unsuitable for presentation.’

Sometimes the ‘rejects’ prove more interesting than the ‘keepers’.

When I was a teenager, I had a different vision than I did in later years. Although I grew up in a rural area, I was fascinated by urban settings.

SEPTA 69th Street, Media trolley. 1980.
Media, Pennsylvania. 1980.
Media, Pennsylvania. 1980.

My visual inspiration came from slide shows with family friend (and now regular Tracking the Light reader) Emile Tobenfeld, who specialized in innovative and creative urban abstract images. Other inspiration included Donald Duke’s book Night Train (published in 1961), and various main-stream media, including the film 2001.

By intent, I made color slides that were dark and minimalistic. These are raw images made by a kid with a Leica who could see, but who had very little technical prowess. They were intended for projection in dark room.

Newark City Subway, December 1981.

Later when I learned more about photography, I was discouraged from this sort of raw minimalism. Instead I was urged to photograph to capture greater detail, where sharpness was prized among other qualities. My photography adopted qualities that were ‘better suited for publication and commercial application’.

Although my vision continued to embrace some of the same compositional threads that I’d worked with in my earlier years, by the mid-1980s I rejected these early efforts because they were raw and unrefined. Today, I find them fascinating.

PATH Station at Exchange Place, Jersey City circa 1982.
Penn-Station, New York. December 1979.
MBTA Green Line, Boston, 1983.
MBTA Green Line, Boston, 1983.

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One thought on “Lost Archives: DARK, RAW, and Minimal.”

  1. Some of them are great – I particularly like the low level view of passengers boarding in Media, the Newark car swinging out of a black background under tinted clouds, and Exchange Place. They may lack detail, but they exude atmosphere.

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