Editing with Jessica Dean Camp and Cole Don Kelley

© Cole Don Kelley

We are talking to a range of photographers, photo editors, professors of photography, book designers and others about the physical process of editing images. Selecting, sequencing and laying out photographs - be it for a magazine, book, online site or gallery presentation - seems something of a mysterious process for many photographers and a process that seems perhaps hard to give words to. I haven't found much written about the process and that's exactly why I'm excited to see what comes up in this series.

We started the conversation with Rob HaggartAshley KauschingerJeff RichMiska DraskoczyKevin WY Lee and Aya Takada. Today we continue with the pairing of Jessica Dean Camp and Cole Don Kelley.

Cole Don Kelley is a photographer born and raised in Paris, Texas. He received his Bachelor of Fine Art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently pursuing his Master of Fine Art in photography from Yale School of Art. His pictures are about sadness in its many forms particularly of the sexual and apocalyptic sort.

Jessica Dean Camp is a photographer that lives and sleeps in Dallas, Texas. She received her BFA with an emphasis in photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She hopes to one day take pictures that can live and breath without relying on references to future or past.

They collectively run the site Don/Dean.

© Cole Don Kelley

fototazo: Tell us a little about yourself and what area of photography you work in.

Jessica Dean Camp: Cole and I were both born and raised in Texas, a few days apart, about 120 miles away from each other. We met in undergrad, studying photography, where we both went to and graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. As a blog we are interested in art photography, photojournalism, food photography, wedding photography, real estate photography, mugshots, roller coaster photography and haunted house photography.

f: How do you select images to work with from a larger group? What criteria do you use?

Cole Don Kelley: We have a limited amount of space for each post on the blog. I first choose all of the images that I personally think are the strongest and throw out everything else. I usually choose more than needed to give me more to work with. From that point I read over the interview and place images next to text where the text and image feed into each other in an exciting way. The images often manage to illustrate something abstract that the artist was discussing about their work.

© Cole Don Kelley

f: Talk with us about how you begin to organize and sequence the images that you have selected in relationship to each other - as well as to text if there's text.

JDC: It's a digital process, I initially go through the artist's website and "grab' images that I respond to and quickly place images in sequence next to text that I think relates. I look through that initial edit and re-edit. I switch and move the photographs throughout the interview and this process is more intuitive. The hardest thing about editing in this blog format is that the viewer is seeing a scrolling sequence of images that move vertically. More traditional edits exist horizontally so I had to reform my thinking when it comes to viewing the work. I tend to think of editing the images as a building process, stacking the images upwards…its a lot like jenga.

© Jessica Dean Camp

f: How do you consider the balancing of formal qualities in the photographs with the content/narrative of the series as a whole as you select and sequence a series?

CDK: With the blog we are dedicated to showcasing the artistic powers of a young artist, I rarely try to make a sweeping gesture or statement when editing images, but merely attempt to prove an artist's worth at their very best. I will say that I always try to lead and close an interview with the two strongest images.

f: What are common issues, problems and questions that unfold for you during the process of laying images out?

JDC: One big problem is something I call doubling up images. In the blog we tend to post an image then a question and response and then another image. There is enough space between photographs to breathe, but sometimes we post two images with maybe half a centimeter in between. For me, these double images have to have a link in them that can easily draw the eye from the top of the first image downwards and into the second image. Its hard to find - you just have to keep pairing images until you find the right match. It takes a while.

© Jessica Dean Camp

f: How do you know when a layout is done?

CDK: This is difficult to explain, but not difficult at all to figure out. When you finish an edit you scroll through it and it just either works or it doesn't. You scroll down and there are either hiccups or it moves as smooth as possible. Sometimes it takes a long time of reworking, but the goal is to move through the entire thing and have it just feel right. There is no way to explain it, nor is there an exact science to what happens when two images clash or one image feels lonely or when the pacing feels off, but you absolutely know it when you see it.

© Jessica Dean Camp

f: What are common mistakes you see in editing?

JDC: I like to edit quickly, cutting away large amounts of images and trying to get down to the bare bones of what the work is. This calls for editing out a lot more images than most people would. I think that the hardest part of editing is sacrificing a great photograph for a great edit, it seems counter intuitive.

f: Finally, what is the best advice you've ever gotten about editing?

CDK: An incredible professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago named Aimee Beaubien teaches a class called "Structuring, Sequencing, Series." It's an encompassing class on editing and sequencing. While I do not remember an exact nugget that she said during the class I do remember that the most crucial thing I learned was that it was extremely intuitive and the only way to get better at something like that is to practice as often as you can and with diligence.

Screenshot from Don/Dean featuring work by Alexis Vasilikos

Screenshot from Don/Dean featuring work by Marzena Abrahamik