Anatomy of a Series

What constitutes a series in photography?

In a nutshell, a series is a collection of images linked together in some way. Gallery owners prefer series because they appeal to collectors and are more likely to result in sales of multiple images.

How many images are in a series?

A series may be as small as three images or include many dozens. For a solo show, gallery owners generally prefer 24 or more photographs.

My upcoming solo exhibition at the SMA Photographic Gallery on August 20 includes three series. The first series, Resilience, is romantic in the 19th-century manner. In October, nine of these images will be in a show in Trieste, Italy.

The second series in the SMA show explores various feminine archetypes like Warrior, Peacemaker, Fortune Teller, Empath, Prophet, Vessel, Succubus, and Assassin. Some of these images are pretty disturbing. The third series is made up of three photographs. This series in progress is called “Earth Weeps.”

How can photos be linked together in a series?

The linkages are many. Some photographers, like Cindy Sherman in her Noir series, focus on self-portraits. In Holland, Jeroen Wolf began roaming the streets of Amsterdam, collecting images of 100 people at every age between 1 and 100. Susan Meiselas, the curator of the show in Italy, is known for her documentary images of Carnival Strippers. Simple subjects like chairs, shoes, and umbrellas can also be used to create a series. A design-based series can be based on colors, time of day — your imagination is the only limit.

I’m especially interested in creating a series with a vital narrative component that spans one photograph to the next. This is not without limitations; for example, the images must remain in order on the gallery walls, or the story breaks down.

When I began shooting the series in 2020, my model was young, barely more than a girl. During the shoot, she became pregnant, then lost her newborn two days after giving birth. When we resumed work in 2022, my model was pregnant again. There was a depth in the woman that the girl did not have.

I’m also interested in combining text and images. Included here is the text accompanying “In the Blink of an Eye.”

“Unexpected losses can be like a train wreck, a derailment in a life expecting to reach a planned destination on time. In the blink of an eye, everything is turned upside down and inside out.

Significant losses like death, illness, or betrayal can wake us up. We begin to ask ourselves what is important and what we want out of life. When this happens, loss becomes a gateway to transformation.”

A woman bought three of “In the Blink of an Eye” because of the text. She had lost her brother to a hit-and-run driver and purchased one for herself and her two siblings.

My Creative Process in Creating a Narrative Series

• Do I have a deep connection with the topic?

• Why is it important to me?

• What is the story I want to tell?

• How much of myself am I willing to share?

• Every aspect of the process must serve to tell the story: lighting, composition, props, hair, makeup, lens, set location, etc.

Blood-curdling Scream

I’ve made a few men cry out in my day, but this was different.

This was a blood-curdling scream.

I ran upstairs to the bathroom, almost tripping over the cat running the other direction. I burst through the door not knowing what to expect. Whatever it was, it didn’t sound like anything a kiss and a batman bandaid would fix.

“Stay away,” he yelled, holding his pants in one hand and brandishing the plunger in the other. When I followed his horrified gaze to the bathtub, I could see what triggered his panic.

“It’s just cheese,” I tried to explain, but he was hyperventilating and past logical explanations.

I had been making cheese that day. Instead of using cloth bags, I used pantyhose. I tied them in pairs and threw them over a rod I installed over the bathtub to let the whey drip out. The cat liked lapping up whey at the bottom of the tub.

They did sort of look like balls.

There were about a dozen pairs.

When I went to grab one of the sacks to show him, he bolted, still holding his pants. I heard the door slam and his car start. I got to the window just in time to see him peal out of the dirt driveway from my farmhouse to the county road, leaving behind a cloud of dust.

He took my plunger.

The cat packed his bags and went on a road trip.

Yesterday, a recipe I was looking at listed cream cheese as an ingredient. I didn’t have any. “Well, then”, I thought, “I’ll just make some.” Homemade cream cheese is rich and smooth, not like those gummy bricks of Philadelphia Cream Cheese you buy in stores.

Hanging up my balls reminded me of the blood-curdling screamer, poor thing.

Morning Routine

I need routine, to be active, to learn, and to be creative. These are my vaccines for depression. My morning routine goes something like this. The cat bats my nose, if that doesn’t work, she jumps on me. I pet the cat and talk to her, make the bed (she helps), feed the cat, do chores while the coffee is brewing, and take a cup up to the funky roof garden with the cat tagging behind. We soak up some sun. I flip through old Sunset Magazines.

Lately I’ve been wondering if it might not be time to settle down in a small town in the Southwest and have a garden, provided, of course, that I don’t die of the pandemic here in Mexico.

While I mull this over, the cat chases bugs.

Then we put on music (the cat likes Atomic Kitten) and run around the house. Sometimes I chase the cat, sometime she chases me. She is nearly a teenager. Her legs are impossibly long, but her body hasn’t caught up yet. She reminds me of a small shack on stilts in a Louisiana bayou.

Around and around we go. The cat tracks around corners, leaning into it like a biker. Yesterday, she spun out and ended up facing the opposite direction. She was clearly confused as to how I had disappeared without a trace. I clicked my tongue. She jumped straight up and executed one of those mid-air cork-screw turns cats and skaters do so well. I turned and ran.

Around and around.

When one of use throws in the flag, I go online while the cat goes back to sleep at the foot of the closet – her current favorite hidey hole. Clearly, sleeping most of the day does not cause depression in felines.

Afterward, there is no structure. It’s like that Chinese juggling act with plates on the top of bamboo poles; whatever plate is about to fall off gets a twirl. Occasionally, a plate comes crashing to the floor and breaks into pieces, making me cuss like a Marine while the cat looks on disapprovingly.