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Exploring Rodney Smith's "The End"

From: Narrative Portraiture: On Location in New York with Rodney Smith

Video: Exploring Rodney Smith's "The End"

Chris Orwig: There is so much that I enjoy about photography, whether it's getting out in the field and capturing a moment and creating the photograph or reviewing those images after the fact or making my own prints. But above and beyond all that, I also really like enjoying other people's photography in book form. You know, I've highlighted a few of Rodney's books, and there's an interesting trend. Here was his first book. It's pretty big. Then this one was a little bit smaller and then even smaller. And now here back in California, we have his most recent book.

Exploring Rodney Smith's "The End"

Chris Orwig: There is so much that I enjoy about photography, whether it's getting out in the field and capturing a moment and creating the photograph or reviewing those images after the fact or making my own prints. But above and beyond all that, I also really like enjoying other people's photography in book form. You know, I've highlighted a few of Rodney's books, and there's an interesting trend. Here was his first book. It's pretty big. Then this one was a little bit smaller and then even smaller. And now here back in California, we have his most recent book.

It's just such a completely different size and scale, and that kind of fascinates me. What we are going to do is open this up. And I am excited to open up this book because while I was in New York-- I was able to get it there-- we talked a little bit about the book, he signed it, and he also wrote a few words in the book. Now, I don't know what he wrote, and I can't wait to see what it says. Rodney Smith: This is a book many, many years in the making. I am not quite sure why it took so long, but the three previous books I have done--well, the first one was sort of a standard size, 9x12 coffee shop, just a coffee table book.

But the last two books were quite small, and so everyone was always saying, oh, you know, your pictures look so good big, I think we should do a really big book. So that was the precipice for producing such a big, sort of heavy, tome, because the last two were small. And I did this book, again, starting a number of years ago, with a thought that perhaps it was time to move on from this type of picture, and maybe there would be some other thing in the future.

I don't know. At this point, I still don't know. I don't know whether I am finished with something, or I am really just exploring it further. It's sort of more of a question than an answer. So that's sort of where the title came from. The designer is a person named David Meredith. Walter Thomas, who is this really eccentric and brilliant copywriter, wrote all the text, and it's quite funny. I would also say to do a book like this today, you have to be either slightly insane or in love, or perhaps both.

I mean, it's such a labor of love. There is so much work: the paper cost, the printing cost, the binding cost; just doing everything to the highest level is really, really almost impossible. I mean, you would not get a trade publisher to do this book. Now, there are trade publishers who want to publish this book in a much smaller version, at a much smaller cost, but it's not the same book. I mean, we really worked very, very hard on it.

Chris: The End. The end is but a beginning. And I am going to flip this around so I can read it. I have the edition number and a signature, and here are his words, and I am really just reading them for the first time. But he says, "Often some of the nicest and best things come from unexpected sources. You're definitely one of them.

I thank you, and I'm so happy to know you." And as I was saying before, it's fun to see this in my space. This is kind of--this is special for me. I think as an artist, as a photographer, it's easy to get caught up in it. I could just keep going and going, but I won't. I'll stop here for a minute. You know, I think there is so much to celebrate and appreciate in photography, and the final artifact, the print, really is among one of my favorite things.

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  1. 2m 13s
    1. Welcome
      1m 27s
    2. Introduction to Rodney Smith
      46s
  2. 31m 37s
    1. Creating serene photographs...spontaneously
      4m 37s
    2. Creating photographs that ask questions
      4m 43s
    3. What makes a photograph good?
      5m 28s
    4. Film, digital, and the importance of the artifact
      6m 1s
    5. Contrast, tone, and black and white versus color
      5m 0s
    6. The early years and photography today
      5m 48s
  3. 13m 16s
    1. First impressions: A portrait without the subject
      3m 52s
    2. The finishing room
      1m 4s
    3. The darkroom
      7m 13s
    4. The final print room
      1m 7s
  4. 23m 11s
    1. Selecting the gear
      3m 41s
    2. Shooting the portrait
      6m 13s
    3. Reviewing the plan for the shoot
      2m 6s
    4. The portrait in review
      6m 36s
    5. Large prints in review
      4m 35s
  5. 8m 33s
    1. Why take pictures?
      2m 11s
    2. Cultivating the discipline to print
      2m 8s
    3. Exploring Rodney Smith's "The End"
      4m 14s
  6. 5m 27s
    1. Embracing a theme: Surprise, whimsy, or cliché
      55s
    2. Creating photos that ask questions
      2m 22s
    3. Creating fashion photos with a unique style
      2m 10s
  7. 26m 40s
    1. Photography is a reflection of who we are
      1m 47s
    2. Photography is about the art of observation
      1m 57s
    3. Working with models
      2m 10s
    4. Raise more questions than you answer
      3m 5s
    5. Mentors strengthen our vision
      3m 37s
    6. There is a right place for certain things
      4m 39s
    7. What influences you?
      3m 22s
    8. The camera as a tool for gaining wisdom
      3m 6s
    9. Creating photographs deepens who we are
      2m 57s
  8. 33s
    1. Conclusion
      33s

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