Old work is worth keeping

Cropped SFW version—full NSFW version below

I’m unsure if this is just me or if it happens to most photographers, but there are times where I wondered why I keep all the photographs I took, even those I would never show to anyone. They could be terrible photos, or embarrassing ones, or just mistakes, but I keep them. The archive just grows bigger every time I press the shutter button.

Then I go through some older work and find photos that catch my eye, photos that I did not fancy when I first looked through it. Maybe my tastes have changed, maybe my headspace is altered, but it feels somewhat rewarding, and surprising, to find a new angle or a new sensibility that I missed the first (or even second) time around.

[NSFW photos below]

“Expressions” — Sara Scarlet, Singapore, 2016. © 2017 Callan Tham. All rights reserved.

These four photos certainly didn’t strike me as something I’d pay much attention to when I first looked through my “contact sheet” months ago, but now I noticed the subtle expressions on Sara’s face. I remembered that day: she was terribly jet-lagged and I felt rather terrible at having to push her through a session, plus I wasn’t feeling it that day; I couldn’t get into that ”zone”.

Yet we still got some good work done that day. Sometimes, we just have to push that little bit more, even though it’s the last thing we want to do at that particular moment. 

But I digress. The point is, keeping previous work can provide you with surprises later on, and perhaps more importantly, it allows you to look back and see how you and your work has evolved or changed. And no matter your inclination, understanding the path you have taken can only be good to chart the road ahead.

That makes keeping the old work worth the effort. The accumulation of hard drives, though, is still a royal pain in the arse.

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