Contact Sheets

Since I became interested in photography way into the digital age, I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of a contact sheet.  In analog days, a contact sheet was the entire film roll printed negative size on a sheet of photograph paper.  The photographer could then examine the photographs with a magnifying glass or the naked eye to see which ones worked and which ones didn’t.  Of course, you can still make contact sheets on Photoshop, but it isn’t necessary in the same way it was in the analog age.  A contact sheet was a photographer’s sketchbook, a way to choose the images which you eventually decided to print.

The French-German television station Arte produced a documentary series proposed by William Klein called Kontaktabzüge (German for contact sheet.)  In the series, 30 photographers from around the world walk you through their contact sheets talking about why they chose the final images they did as well as some intimate details about why they took the pictures in the first place.  You can buy the box set here and it will definitely be worth the price because they are amazing, with dubbing available in both German and English.  Please also ignore the idiot who gave it only three stars.  His reasoning was that you can’t present an entire photographer’s work in only 12 minutes.  Well, duh.  That was never the point to begin with.  Some of the segments are also available on YouTube, to found under the search Contact Sheets Arte.  Here is the one by William Klein himself:


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