Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sorting It All Out

I have been collecting old family photos (other family's photos, not mine) as reference material for the 'People You Know' project for several years and now have a crazyville, hoarder-like pile of them sitting here in my studio. At first I tried organizing them at least into piles of yes, no and maybe, but I didn't really keep up with that and so they eventually ended up all mixed together in several boxes. That disorganization was very overwhelming to me and was one of the reasons I kept putting off getting back to the project last fall. I knew before I could do anything I would have to sort and prioritize the images, which in turn helps me determine the direction to take with the series.

So after quite a bit of procrastination (who me???) I finally began sorting them out yesterday. For some dumb, overly optimistic reason, I had assumed it would only take an afternoon or so to go through 5 million photographs, but now I see that it will take much longer. It took me at least an hour to decide HOW to sort them. At first I thought there only needed to be three piles; yes, no and maybe. Then I thought I should try to keep them together by family (I often get boxes of photos from one family) but they have gotten too scattered for that. Finally I decided that I should make piles based on the subject matter; couples, men, women, children, landscape/buildings. I started with those categories and promptly realized that I would have to add many more; adults WITH children, two people, three people, big groups of people, prom dates, cars, animals/pets, interiors (amazing how many people take pictures of their living rooms!), gardens, Christmas trees, people on horses, the aftermath of big snowstorms, sunbathers on the beach, vacation photos, people eating dinner, weddings, school photos, class photos, and parades.

Then things really got confusing. There was a lot of overlap and I spent entirely too much time stressing about where to place the photo of the car stuck in the snow on the country road or the wedding reception dinner on the beach or the girl holding a cat in front of a Christmas tree.
When I began to seriously consider another pile called 'trifecta' I decided I better chill out and just do the best I could.

The thing is though, it helps me to have them in categories. I like to work in series and am looking at several series within a series here. And even though I am pretty sure that I won't be painting images of little babies or even children in general, they are too cute and I don't do cute even thought this baby is SERIOUSLY cute: I have also learned that I should never say never; I will be keeping every photo no matter how improbable it seems to me now that it will ever be a useful reference to me. Like this one for example: I can't see using it as reference but omg, what a great bad photo! I always laugh when I see that couple dancing and can totally imagine how they must have been moving around the dance floor at this rockin' party. This photo stays and I might even frame it......

Once I get all the photos categorized I will go through each group and pick out a few for the 'yes, I must paint this right now' pile. Foursome is definitely one of those: Foursome

And while sorting them, I have also been obsessing about how to store them. I am good at multi-tasking! The super organized part of me that has been able to fit ten tons of junk into one room wants to go out and buy about 25 nice perfect stackable plastic bins, one for each category. However, the more practical solution is to put them into large ziploc bags and keep them in a file cabinet drawer. Easier to look through them that way, I think, and less expensive even though I do love those bins. heh.


Elaine Mari said...

Love that woman/girl with cat to match. Sorting is very interesting I find. Sometimes so emotional and intense but stuff appears before your eyes that you would not have seen otherwise than sorting through old piles.

Denise Rose said...

Wow! I'm glad it is YOU sorting those and not me! I would be obsessive I am afraid! I have a hard enough time keeping up with MY family photos! Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

some of those above seriously belong on that "Weird Family Photos" website.

Joanne DeWald

Tracy said...

Elaine, so true, some of these images really get me and I find myself pondering the whole entire history of family photos. But that is a topic for another post;))

Denise, don't get me started on what a mess my family photos are in. Maybe that's another blog post too?????

Joanne, I know! I was thinking that too!!! Maybe I will post some more, I have some really crazy ones! Guess I need to add a crazy pile;)

SamArtDog said...

I could never get past some of these pictures and on to the next one. "Foursome" is one of those. Before I ever got to painting it, I'd want to write at least one short story based on it. Like, The Pregnancy. The Corsage. The Son-in-law. Or people who live out their lives surrounded by all those Patterns (plaid, floral wallpaper, floral dress, Dad's snappy shirt) and what it does to them.

And that's just ONE picture!

Mary Ann said...

Tracy, Love the old photos. I bought 2 albums where the daughter celebrated her birthday holding her cake outside. I have 3 or 4 years as she grew older which are destined to become a quilt. I just leave mine in the albums till I need them. Fun to look through. But I wonder about people who sell their photo albums.

Jala Pfaff said...

That foursome one I can TOTALLY already see as one of your paintings.
The organizing: a good description of the kind of entropy that drives me nuts. (Drives me nuts not so much the organizing per se, but the unavoidable fact of entropy.)
Does it not weird you out to think someone might recognize themselves or someone else from the photos?

Peter said...

Hi Tracy I haven't been keeping up with blogs lately but just happened to look at yours today to see how you use the second blog to sell art. I'm thinking of do that instead of using my regular web cart. I was interested to see that you are doing this photo sort thing because I'm doing the exact same thing on my computer. I have to put up some pix on a wholesale site and I have to go thru 3 years of jewelry pix all dumped in one folder to find, edit, resize, name, and upload to their site. I'm on day 5. So this problem is on my mind. What I discovered is tagging. Which is what you are doing with all your catagories. I'm using picasa because I can load them and sync. to web albums and blog them from there too. I can use the tag info to find things across many folders ( up to 1000 pix at a time)
Soo.... Here is what I would do: Set up your camera on a stand of some kind and quickly shoot each one in the yes pile. Then use picasa to tag them . You can select as many of the group as you want and give them the same tag and/or give each pic as many tags as you want. As you typ in tags, your list grows and then it's just point and click to add tags to new things in the "family photo" folder. You could number the photos and put in bags in groups of 10 or so and have a tag such as "bag1" Then as you browes the folder you will know what bag it's in. No matter how big the collection gets you can easily find the original even if you only use that one tag. However if you tag each one, when you want to do a painting of, say, "mon's with kids" you would do a search on that tag and find them in bag1 bag15 and bag35 ( number the photos with bag # so when you have them scattered about they can go back quickly)
Shooting the pix with the camera set up on a stand would go quickly since you don't really care about the quality of the shot, it's just a reference to the originals.
Wow, sorry about the long post. I was sort of figureing this out for my own stuff as I went. There is a learning curve with picasa but it's not too bad. You may be using it already.

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynn said...

You so have to do a painting of the foursome. (The guy on the left with the plaid paints caused a flashback - when we were little, around the time of that photo, my brother and I had matching outfits made from the same material. Crikey!)

ps. I always enjoy your posts and love seeing what you're working on.