The Big Edit; In Which Kevin Schafer Drives To The Dump Page 2

At the end there was a pile of trash bags 6 feet high in Kevin’s office—about 100,000 slides, he estimates.

And now it was time to drive to the dump…well, more accurately, the transfer station, where there might be signs for glass, newspaper, plastic, cardboard…but life’s work?

“There were some recycling bins, but this didn’t fall under recycling,” Kevin says. “So I took them to the big hole in the ground, the big trough of miscellany, and I emptied the bags into the hole, where there was a guy driving a tractor around under this rainstorm of debris. Once it’s all compacted, at the end of the day, it leaves the transfer station and goes to the dump.”

Brown bear fishing for salmon, British Columbia.

He waited until the tractor drove over the slides several times. Then, assured that no one coming along would be going into the nature photography business with his photos, it was goodbye to all that.

“I expected it to be a frightening experience,” Kevin says. “But it was just the opposite. This thing had been bugging me for years. First of all, it was a constant reminder that not every picture I took was a winner, so it was very liberating.”

And there was another issue.

Kevin had heard that the estate of a well-known photographer who had died suddenly had been valued on the individual worth of every one of his slides. “I didn’t want my heirs or my estate to be charged the supposed value of every crappy picture I ever took.”

Wenatchee Rock Rose, Eastern Cascade Mountains, Washington.

The Big Edit turned into something of a retrospective, but there were no surprises. “Looking at the photos I saw that I’m much better now than I was 25 years ago—the images are cleaner, tighter, and stronger overall. I see better now than I did then. A lot of the older pictures I’d kept because of sentimental value, and sometimes because of the effort it took to get the pictures, not because of their quality.”

I wondered about the mood of the edit. After all, Kevin might feel differently about some of the photos in a week, a month, next year. “Maybe,” he says, “but that’s the kind of thinking that stops you from doing something like this. You can’t let it get in the way.”

The photos you see here are among the keepers. “Not every one has sold,” Kevin says, “but I thought they had enough image value to be kept.”

The Big Edit concerned only transparencies. Kevin tends to keep up with his digital output, sorting, saving, and deleting as he goes. But, he admits, “there are all those raw files I still have to go through.”

Not a problem. Kevin lives in Seattle. There’ll be more snow.

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