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© 2018 Kevin P. Lyons

A Medium Format Triptych & The Value of Self-Critique

Updated: Feb 11, 2019


Nothing allows you to analyze your own photos like printing them - the larger the better. Absent the flattering backlight of modern retina displays, you can really see your photos for what they are. Blown highlights? You'll see those. Muddy shadows too. I can't tell you how many times I've had an otherwise solid image trashed because an enlargement showed that focus was just a smidge off, or that my camera had the tiniest vibration, blurring the details.


So I make it a point to print my photos and hang them up on the office wall, then I stand back and have a look. I stand really close and look some more. I hang a few side-by-side to see how they work together. It was during one of these printing sessions that I discovered the following triptych of photographs within a larger body of work:



Each of these photos was taken on Kodak Tri-X 400 film with my Yashica Mat 124G (an excellent 1970's-era medium format film camera that shoots big old 6x6 centimeter square negatives). Hung amongst a dozen or so prints on my office wall, these three photos kept standing out. Then I realized that I had unwittingly discovered almost the exact same composition in three separate places and at three different times.



A strong vertical in the left third, with the remaining two thirds divided by a sweeping horizontal element across the top, and a leading line beginning in the lower right corner of the image.


Huh. I zoned in on those three images and spent the next few hours tweaking, printing contact sheets, re-tweaking, and printing them again until I eventually settled on three finished prints. Those three framed prints have been hanging in a hallway of our home for a few months now and I am still torn when I look at them -- on one hand it's nice to see a consistency of theme and composition in your own work (however accidentally). On the other hand, it could be a sign that I've not been putting enough thought into my compositions and have instead been cherry-picking the same old reliable photo no matter where I go.


So am I just a one trick pony? I don't know. But I wouldn't even been asking the question if it weren't for the self-critiquing process. Either way, I've learned something. So print your photos and lay them out side by side. You might be surprised with what you discover!