Ed Templeton is definitely somebody we've been following since day 1. We think he had his first appearance in Lodown sometime in '95 or '96 while still a pro skateboarder promoting his own crypto skateboard brand 'Toy Machine', formed as a means to basically get his art on the pavement. One could say that Lodown has been keeping track of good ol' Ed's evolution while growing old ourselves - and again, we are happy to share a little interview we had with him for this edition of Black Is Beautiful. And since Ed has a new book out, he sent us a selection of personal faves (images) he selected from his forthcoming release: Wayward Cognitions, published by Um Yeah Arts.
Tell us about the production process - all the photos were printed by your hands in your darkroom and the layout and design were also conceived all by yourself. Why did you choose such a procedure for this book? When I think about it, I must be a total control freak! I just liked the idea of printing everything myself, almost like a personal challenge. I spent over a month in the darkroom printing and even more time scanning and photoshopping dust off the flatbed scans. By the end I was wishing I had just scanned the negs, because nobody is going to notice these slight differences, and the work that went into it. The main reason was just a desire to do it the traditional way. I'm still shooting film and using a darkroom, so I feel like my book should reflect that. Over the years doing Toy Machine of course I have learned how to do layouts from all the years of doing ads and graphics, so if you can do it yourself, why not? Saves money, and you don't have anyone to blame but yourself if it sucks.
The images have been chosen from your photographic archive of the past 20 years. What made you choose those particular shots that are in the book? I was thinking of photography, or at least the way I shoot, as being a series of stray thoughts. I would flip through my archive and see these thousands of snippets of time, each one spurning a thought about that time and place and then came up with the title, Wayward Cognitions. The words resonated with me and I started to collect images that I thought fit the description, and in my case those were images that belonged to no particular project I was working on. Like any photographer I have multiple series going on in my head. I never work on just one thing at a time. I have topics and themes that I'm looking for, and even places, cities that may end up being future books. So I was careful to choose images that were not part of those future series. But also I wanted to choose images that had a certain strangeness to them, ones that worked on more than the surface. Another aspect was finding photos of people on the streets that were lost in a stray thought, or wayward cognition of their own.
How long did it take for you to make this selection and was there anything new you noticed that came out of this process? I'm not sure exactly how long I was compiling images. I had been talking with Thomas Campbell from Um Yeah Arts for a while about doing something, and I had the idea and the title and was starting to get things together but in a very slow and vague sense. But then Thomas submitted the book to the distributor, DAP, and suddenly I had a hard deadline and had to speed up the process. I have been digitally archiving my proof sheets and individual photos in lo-res so I have a way to search and find photos, but it's a long process that is far from being finished. So it's pretty easy to find images from the part that is on the computer and searchable, but the other part is kind of a bitch. I have to sit down and physically look through the proof books with a loupe. And there is much wishing I had labelled and dated things better when I was starting out. To the young photographers out there I implore you, label and date everything! No matter how insignificant it seems. You will thank me in 10 years. When you look through your images that intensely, like I was, you end up finding more and more connections and ideas for series. Whenever I have free time I just dump a whole book of photos into Preview and scroll through them, inevitably you end up seeing something you forgot or finding a new thread you were unconsciously creating and can now put it into terms.
How was it for you to work on a book that has no topic or theme, as your books have always had some kind of a topic/theme to be compiled as one? That was one of the main reasons for this book, and the title itself sprung from thinking about the stuff that falls in between the cracks. Since most of my books so far have been fairly specific, photos from a car, photos from suburbia, or even very narrowly defined as in Teenage Smokers or Kissers, or photos from one single trip to Russia, I really liked the idea of having no restraints. I quickly realized however, that I needed to define some other ways to narrow my choosing process or I would be adding and adding until I had a thousand page book. So I started to look for photos that were a bit weirder, photos that would resonate with other photos in the layout along with stand alone photos that had no home in any future series. And I had to limit myself to a certain page number. Even during the process things evolved, some prints were too difficult for me to print with my limited darkroom abilities, and other ones that I thought would work ended up not working well with other images, so the editing and trimming continued until the very end. Really this book was a pleasure to make. It has opened up a floodgate of ideas for me of new ways to approach bookmaking and makes me excited for the future.
What do you find is a big difference between working on a topic and selecting photos from the big archive? The biggest difference is you have to be more creative with your choices and think about your selection in a different way. Selecting for a narrow theme such as Teenage Smokers is very easy, there's only two criteria: Is the person young? Are they smoking? If both answers are yes, you have your photo. After that it's just a matter of is the composition nice or is the subject interesting. But the other way is wide open with possibilities. Most of my photos don't end up in a series. So I'm looking at my entire life's work and whittling it down into one 200 page story. You have to ask yourself what you want this story to be about, what the message should be, and then choose images accordingly. It's liberating, and I am already craving a future selection in this manner. "10% inspiration" as the saying goes, that’s the fun part, it's the "90% perspiration" part that I'm not looking as forward to. Maybe I need to learn how to delegate.
words: Akiko Watanabe